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Published in Stream:
Ukraine Live Day 506
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Says Western Readers "Robbed of The Truth" About Ukraine
5 years
Conflicting Claims And Protests Against Ukrainian Withdrawal From Shirokino

Earlier this week The Washington Post ran an editorial  which argued that the West was allowing Russia to slowly infiltrate eastern Ukraine. The editorial, written by Jackson Diehl, says that more action is needed from the West to deter Russia's aggressive actions and support Ukraine. Diehl cited the work for The Interpreter in documenting new Russian bases in the Donbass, and new drone footage of a base between Donetsk and Mariupol which was built in separatist territory in less than two weeks -- footage analyzed by The Interpreter's Pierre Vaux for The Daily Beast. Diehl argued that the West has failed to support Ukraine both militarily and financially against these threats:

That leaves Ukraine facing the possibility of default as soon as the end of this month, and no later than September, when a $500 million bond falls due. Anders Aslund, an expert on the Ukrainian economy at the Atlantic Council, thinks Ukraine needs $10 billion in additional financing to survive the next two years. At best, it may get half of that.

Ukrainian leaders, who see themselves fighting in defense of Western democracy against Putin’s imperialist autocracy, increasingly express bewilderment at their inability to attract support. “If we fail,” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told The Post last month, “this will be a failure for the entire free world.” But the free world, it seems, is otherwise occupied.

Will we let Ukraine die?

A Ukrainian military unit last week released footage from a drone showing a large new Russian military base in eastern Ukraine, equipped with T-72 tanks, barracks, communications equipment and even a parade ground. International observers reported "increased intensity" of fighting in the region, in violation of a cease-fire.

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Jul 08, 2015 22:26 (GMT)

The Nation, an English-language newspaper in Thailand, has published a letter to the editor written by Kirill Barsky, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Thailand, entitled "Readers robbed of the truth about Ukraine," which starts with this tagline:

Dear readers! I hate to say this, but when on July 7 you read the article "Will the West let Ukraine die?" by Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post, you got robbed. The author bluntly stole your right to truthful information.

He ruthlessly cleaned you out by his naked lies. You were stripped to the skin in front of the reality, which needs to be faced with at least some elementary knowledge. 

The letter, which is riddled with ad hominem attacks and lacks any hyperlinks, directly mentions, though fails to factually address, several key points raised by The Interpreter. There are also several false claims, such as claims that Donetsk and Lugansk are shelled each day by the Ukrainian military (that does not correspond to most OSCE reports, as shelling of Donetsk city is not necessarily a daily occurrence and shelling of Lugansk city is now rare).

But one claim is especially dishonest. Barsky writes:

This new Christopher Columbus [one of Barsky's derogatory terms for Jackson Diehl, or for our team, it's not clear - The Interpreter] said he had discovered "a Russian military base" in Eastern Ukraine "equipped with T-72 tanks, barracks, communications equipment and even a parade ground". Isn't it strange? A June 30 OSCE press release said no military movement was observed in the conflict zone. Check it out!

There is no link to the OSCE report in order to "check it out!", but our intrepid team of explorers found the OSCE report in question. The June 30 OSCE report includes descriptions of heavy fighting around Donetsk, northwest of Lugansk and elsewhere, but, sure enough, it makes no mention of separatist armor out of place. However, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) does not inspect the same areas each day. But in their report filed the next day, July 1, the OSCE reports, among other things, seeing artillery in separatist-controlled territory near Mariupol, and Grad launchers which were missing from a separatist holding location. In the report filed on June 29, the day before the report cited by Barsky, the OSCE saw a convoy moving through separatist territory:

At Makiivka (“DPR”-controlled, 7km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed a convoy of 25 large (32-ton) civilian trucks escorted by a “DPR” military truck at its end. All vehicles were heading towards Donetsk city. At least two of the trucks had Russian Federation license plates, and the majority of the trucks had their license plates covered. The trucks were moving slowly and their cargo compartments were covered with canvas, therefore they seemed to be carrying heavy loads, but SMM could not see the nature of the cargo.

The OSCE also observed a noteworthy amount of weapons moving through separatist territory:

In “DPR”-controlled areas, the SMM observed a total of five T-72 main battle tanks (MBTs). In the vicinity of an “LPR” training site the SMM observed 18 MBTs (T-64) performing non-live-fire exercises.

The Russian Ambassador, then, found one of the few OSCE reports filed recently which does not mention the movement of weapons through separatist territory. In fact, in the reports liked to by Diehl the OSCE notes significant amounts of armor, vehicles, troops and artillery not only moving through territory controlled by the Russian-backed fighters, but moving or staging in areas close to the aforementioned military bases mentioned in Diehl's article.

Perhaps it is the Russian Ambassador, then, who is the great explorer, because it does not take Magellan's navigational skills to find plenty of evidence of Russian activity between Donetsk and Mariupol in recent weeks.

-- James Miller