Ukrainian attacks in Crimea

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August, 2016

  • As a result of Ukrainian reconnaissance and sabotage activity in Crimea (in Russian version of events at least), resulting in firefights and death of two Russian servicemen, there was further cooling of relations and planned Normandy four meeting at G20 summit was cancelled. Bilateral meetings, Putin Hollande and Putin-Merkel are planned instead, Poroshenko not attending).
  • Security was increased to prevent further attacks, including deployment of S-400 air defense system in Crimea (actually planned earlier in July). Border security was beefed up, too.
  • Contact group meetings were continued, and a period of calm was agreed since 1 of September. Zakharchenko stated that he still supports Minsk process, in a hope to avoid huge loss of life and destruction. However, in case of Ukrainian attack, they may go all the way.
  • Despite rather strong rhetoric on Russian side, it was still moderated, e.g. no interviews with family members of killed servicemen, etc. (According to communications with his Ukrainian contacts described by Tsarev, something of that sort could be casus bellie for war).

Breaking news

TASS: The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has said it prevented terrorist attacks in Crimea prepared by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s main intelligence directorate. "The Russian Federal Security Service prevented terrorist attacks in the Republic of Crimea prepared by the main intelligence directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Their planned target was critically important infrastructure," the FSB said on its website, adding that the purpose of the planned attacks was "to destabilize the socio-political situation in the region as preparations for elections of federal and regional authorities are underway."

Putin (video): Two Russian servicemen were killed preventing a diversion by an Ukrainian reconnaissance and sabotage group in Crimea. In such circumstances, Normandy four meeting planned during G20 meeting in China would be pointless, "since those who seized power in Kiev instead of search for compromise and peaceful settlement are resorting to practice of terrorism"; "foolish and pointless act" , done to distract attention from internal problems in Ukraine. Russia also considers an attempt on Plotniskii life to be an act of terrorism. Promised to take additional security measures; asked Western partners to put pressure on Kiev. Comments were made at the very end of a press conference with president of Armenia Serge Sargsyan. Transcript: (Russian), (English).
Ukraine denied (adding that Crimea remains Ukrainian). Poroshenko response
Said to be arrest video (called "Saboteurs Arsenal (Operational Video)", 10 Aug., 2016) shows hand grenades (limonka), landmines (MON 50, and apparently other contact and magnetic type landmines, one with marking 107 125-76 Т which does not come up in web search), plastic explosives, various detonators (including, apparently, several remote controlled), handguns and ammo, some telescopic construction parts; Ukrainian-language packs of (1) red (червоний) pepper (2) insect repellent (3) nalbufin (opiate based painkiller); gloves, knee pads, etc. One arrested person, a heavily built middle aged man, is shown, with no sound in that part of the video. Bag(s) with all those items, individually wrapped in plastic, was slowly ripped apart on camera with a knife (to avoid booby traps, perhaps, or for the sake of presentation). Video is of quite high quality and all details are seen well. All this is said to occur near Armiansk and Perekop, Crimea, close to Ukrainian border.
Kommersant.ru provides some details on two Ukrainian RSG groups involved, firefights, and one of the group leaders. According to the article, quoting statement made by captured militants, the main goal was to hit tourism business to Crimea. Official version by Russia is that RSG aim was to destabilize situation in Crimea prior to elections and to target the officials.
Captured Ukrainian seen on the video is identified as Panov Evgenii Alexandrovich. According to Ukrainian source, he is a former driver, than member of a self-defense unit in Energograd, Ukraine, and an ATO volunteer.
  • Panov interrogation video. In the video, he gives names and military ranks of other group members (transcribed here ). Tells that operation was organised by Ukraininan MOD GRU. He participated in surveying mission where targets were determined (ferry across the Kerch Strait, oil storage facility in Feodosia, 'objects in the city of Jankoy', a helicopter regiment, and the chemical plant Titan). Results were reported in Kiev, and he was paid for the job. Second mission in which he participated was to make a hideout near Armiansk with weapons, explosives, and 5 Russian Army uniforms (says he did not make hideout himself but has other tasks during that mission; he could be a driver, etc).
Panov photo apparently appeared earlier in reprinted by Rusvesna on 7.6.2016 short video and photo report made near Avdeevka industrial zone flash-point by Ukrainian "contract soldiers of the occupying forces in the Donbas" (presumably call name "Honda") . That photo also appeared in twitter post "Behind Enemy Lines. Without the quotes. NOT a metaphor", 30 May 2016, by somebody on Ukrainian side, likely serving in UAF. Photo appears to be a close match to Panov.
  • Added 12 Aug. Another arrested man, Ridvan Suleimanov, testifies on video, shown on Russian TV and in this Zvezda article (details below) . Another article, "Russian security services on Friday reported that the organizer of the sabotage operation in the Crimea was an employee of the Defense Ministry of Ukraine GUR Vladimir Serdyuk. As stated by the FSB, Serdyuk was the chief of intelligence of the 37th Battalion of the 56th Brigade of the Main Intelligence Directorate". These new releases appear in the background of Ukraine denying involvement and offering own numerous and contradictory versions, and toughening rhetoric in Russia.
  • Longer video: witness Marlen Aliev, works as chief energy engineer in a company (MUP Pobednoe, near Jankoi) providing water supply to countryside settlements. On Aug. 1, he was visited by a man who introduced himself as Alexey Sandyl, who said that he can offer him some equipment (pressure and temperature gauges, and automatic controls for pumps), presenting his business papers which appeared suspicious, giving old Ukrainian pre-unification version names of various businesses. Witness identified this man on the photo presented to him by FSB. Next, A. Zakhtei, one of those arrested, tells about his role in transporting 4 men and their cargo, on orders from an Ukrainian handler (Yurii); arriving at the pick-up location near Armiansk, he found himself at a firefight scene, and was arrested. Ukrainian citizen Ridvan Suleimanov is next telling a story on video to his interrogators. Was recruited by Ukrainian intelligence in Zaporozhie in October 2015, and sent to Crimea; had to receive Russian passport and get a job at a military airport or a railroad, to observe military equipment movement. First was ordered to do surveying of a military detachment in Simpheropol. Than on 29 July, arrived with a task to survey an airport and bus station in Simpheropol, and to identify locations for installing IED devices. He was also told to install IED dummies, contact police, and record their actions; when on conference call with police, heard shocking to him statement by certain 'Akmed Karimov', announcing that 'he and his brothers' are starting 'big jihad' and that 'airport, bus station, and ferry will be exploded'; proceeded to the airport to observe and photograph police actions, and later was arrested, after sending photographs to his handler. Video appeared in Rusvesna report, with witness story transcribed, on 12 Aug.
  • According to Kommersant sources, names of Russian servicemen killed are: FSB Lieutenant Colonel Roman Kamenev, and a paratrooper serving under contract Semen Sychev. Roman Kamenev was leading one of the groups sent to capture Ukrainian RSG which was expected to meet their alleged accomplicies, Panov and Zakhtei. The place of the meeting was known only approximately and several FSB groups were sent; Ukrainians appeared in the area assigned to Kamenev. He shouted "Stop, FSB!", as there was a chance to encounter another Russian group or Russian border patrol. One from the Ukrainian RSG team shot in the direction of the voice, mortally wounding Kamenev (who did not wear a body armor vest). The rest of his group quickly killed two attackers and captured 3 more; they are now being interrogated, blaming each other for the fatal shots. Sychev was killed in pursuit of the second Ukrainian RSG discovered after a follow-up search. It is said that the second Ukrainian group managed to escape to Ukraine via shallow waters of Syvash .
  • Long, confusing story in Life.ru, Aug 19, 2016. According to it, FSB group was travelling in a taxi, after intercepting a suspicious phone call, originating in Ukraine, but calling for a taxi service locally. Their car was ambushed on the outskirts of Suvorov township, near a graveyard. One FSB serviceman was killed, and two wounded. Army, police, and spetsnaz groups were alerted and tried to find 'diversants' (saboteurs). A phone call came from a local man, reporting suspicious men in military fatigues loading a passenger car, a Shkoda, near a house of local resident, Igor Frich Later a report came that Skoda is trying to escape, and an order was given to stop it. When it was stopped, after shots fired, a Turkish citizen named as 'Khafiz' (Хафиз), and Tatyana Frich, the wife of Igor Frich were found in the car, both wounded. The article goes on to say that FSB arrested 9 people in total, and that two saboteurs were killed and two wounded; details, apart from earlier information on Panov and Zakhtei, were not provided in the article.
  • Bloggers, including Cassad, were reporting bits of the story from Aug. 7, providing consistent, though a bit exaggerated details. Funeral of one of Russian serviceman was reported too, prior to the official news. Cassad discuss a bat badge on Panov uniform, and provides media evidence that bat is a symbol used by intelligence in Ukraine and Russia. (However this is a small add-on badge, not a chevron on his uniform; and there is some possibility that he added it without authorization; normally that would not happen) . His chevron has 'nobody but us' which is originally a motto of airborne paratroop forces, and '71 battalion'. He is said to serve in 37 territorial battalion of Zaporozhie region during ATO service; chevron of 37 battalion is different but has 'nobody but us' on top , too. There are 46 terriorial battalions, according to wikipedia, but no 71 territorial battalion.
  • Geoffrey Pyatt: це не перше брехливе звинувачення України Росією (ukr)-this is not the first false accusation of Ukraine by Russia.
  • The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine stated that 37th Battalion of the 56th Brigade never existed as part of the Main Intelligence Directorate . The detainees referred to in the reports are not employees of the Main Directorate of Intelligence (GRU) of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine -Rusvesna.
  • Ukrainian FM demanded access to detained individuals given to Rada and international organizations represntatives. It also demanded OSCE access to Crimea, but Russian position is that OSCE mandate does not include Crimea.
  • Vladimir Serdiuk, living in Kiev, confirmed that he served in 37 battalion and that he knows Panov, however denied that 37 battalion is intelligence one, and claims that he is an army psychologist and did not take part in an intelligence or sabotage operation in Crimea. Claims that Alexey Sandul has a hand wound, and that Oleg Dmitrienko, as well as himself, are in their 50's. This, he claims, make them unlikely participants of RSG group.
  • 15 Aug. According to TV Rain claim, in the night of 7 Aug, two civilians, a guy and a girl riding in a passenger car, received multiple wounds and are now in hospital. TV Rain was told that story by 'a representative of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people in the Crimea (organization banned in Russia) Muzaffar Fuca, citing witnesses, and certain Bach Aliyev who is a friend of the male victim. TV Rain has a video of a car with bullet holes in it and claims that they found two people admitted to a hospital. According to the story, a military style minibus overtook the passenger car, and shots were fired immediately. It is not known who the attackers were, and whether or not they fired in a confusion (it was dark at the time). TV Rain is a Russian, Moscow-based independent channel , with pro-Western opposition and often quite pro-Ukrainian and pro-Mejlis stands (what is typically labelled the '5-th column' by the pro-goverment and "patriotic opposition" crowds).