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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukraine Live Day 326

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.
OSCE Reports On Twelfth Russian 'Aid Convoy' Crossing Into Ukraine
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
A Report From The Not-So-Quiet Front Lines

As the international community debates a new round of peace talks to solve the crisis in Ukraine, it's worth noting that in parts of Ukraine the last peace process has never been implemented.

Journalist Oliver Carroll reports from the front lines:

All of his tweets are worth following, but we'll highlight just one more thing he notes. There's a significant amount of damage from rockets and artillery fired by the Russian-backed separatists in residential neighborhoods, far from the fighting or from the position of any Ukrainian military units:

An area just south of Debaltseve (Debaltsevo),  Nikishino, was featured at the beginning of December in an article in Kyiv Post which described the location as the "gates of hell," or the "Debaltseve cauldron. "

Nikishino is one of the most advanced positions of the Ukrainian army in the so-called Debaltseve cauldron, a Ukrainian-held area flanked by separatists from the west, south and east. The area has become a major direction of insurgent attacks, with pro-Russian separatists trying to surround Ukrainian troops.

Most of Nikishino is controlled by separatists but Ukrainian troops retain a foothold in the village.

Most locals have fled the village but a lone pensioner lives in a buffer zone between Ukrainian troops and insurgents, said Nikolai, a soldier who has come back from Nikishino and is currently on leave.

Another soldier, also named Nikolai, said that locals had told him the insurgents deceived them with tales of a better life in Russia. He hopes separatists will withdraw on their own because he says they lack local residents' support.

Earlier this week the OSCE warned of the worsening situation in the Donbass as winter sets in and fighting escalates. Interfax notes that according to the OSCE most of the fighting in eastern Ukraine is near the Donetsk airport, Pisky village, or near "Nikishyne, Chernukhyne, and Debaltseve."

Today the OSCE says the security situation near Debaltseve has "deteriorated considerably in the preceding 24 hours. "

At the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) HQ in government-controlled Debaltseve (55km north-east of Donetsk), the Ukrainian Major-General, head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC, and the Russian Federation Major-General, representative of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to the JCCC, both said the security situation, particularly in areas controlled by the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) had deteriorated considerably in the preceding 24 hours. They said that in the 24 hours preceding 08.00hrs on 8 January, there had been 66 ceasefire violations reported, 29 in government-controlled territory and 37 in “DPR”- or “LPR”- controlled territory. Eighty percent of the incidents were recorded at or in the environs of the Donetsk airport. The remainder were in government-controlled Debaltseve or in “LPR”-controlled territory.

The entire OSCE report can be read here.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Death tolling Rising In Donetsk After Surge In Rocket Attacks At Airport

Donetsk airport has been under heavy attack, the most intense rocket barrages in weeks. Earlier we reported that two Ukrainian soldiers had been killed near Stanitsa Luganskaya, to the north-east of separatist-held Lugansk. Now, Interfax reports that the Ukrainian government now says Ukrainian positions have been shelled 34 times since last night and AFP reports that at least four soldiers and four more civilians have been killed today.

Local authorities in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk said another nine residents were injured in sporadic clashes that continued from dawn late into the evening around the industrial city's disputed airport...

"After a long spell of quiet, the attacks resumed again the tonight," said Oksana, a 27-year-old mother of three as sporadic booms echoed in distance.

She said neighbourhoods around the airport had been effectively cut off from the rest of the city by the shelling.

"Public transport refuses to come here," she said.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Were Forces From Huge Russian Staging Ground Deployed In Ukraine, Or Are They Awaiting A Renewed Offensive?

On January 7 we reported on @DajeyPetros of Ukraine@War's discovery of a vast military camp and staging ground in Russia's Rostov region, not far from the Ukrainian border and erected at some point in 2014.




At the time it was noted that there appeared to be a strong similarity between the forces assembled at the site, documented in geotagged photos on Russian soldiers' VKontakte pages, and a huge column recorded on video in late August last year.

In particular, the composition of both assemblies, including large numbers of both T-90 tanks and 2S19 Msta self-propelled guns, was strikingly similar. We have not, however, been able to geolocate this video so as to prove this is the same location.

A natural question would therefore be whether this huge force has been deployed in Ukrainian territory?

Certainly, the video was recorded shortly before a massive escalation in the conflict, at the end of August and beginning of September, in which regular Russian forces pushed back Ukrainian troops from most of the Lugansk region and invaded along the Azov coast, capturing the town of Novoazovsk.

There is no definitive proof that T-90 tanks have been deployed inside Ukraine. Burkonews, citing reports from InformNapalm, have proposed that a VKontakte album uploaded by a Russian soldier, which showed both photos of soldiers standing by a road sign inside the Lugansk region and also photos of T-90 tanks on manoeuvres, suggest the tanks have been deployed. 


However it is common to see large albums of photos uploaded by soldiers in one day on return from deployment. We have not been able to geolocate the photos of T-90s in this album. This does not rule out the possibility that the T-90s in the album were also in Ukraine, but it does not prove it.

Meanwhile, while sightings have been rare, there is some footage that does suggest the deployment of 2s19 Mstas in Ukraine.

This footage, from Al Jazeera, clearly shows 2S19s inside Ukrainian territory, during the invasion of Novoazovsk: 

Furthermore, the self-propelled guns have a strikingly similar camouflage pattern to those seen in the video from August.

@DajeyPetros highlighted this for us:




On Ukraine@War @DajeyPetros noted that matching 2S19s, both bearing the same camouflage scheme and "Н2200" marking indicating rail transport, had been filmed in Rostov-on-Don on July 30.

They propose that these vehicles spent the intervening month, before the September invasion, at the Golovinka camp.


While this suggests at least a partial deployment of the forces at the camp, the satellite photos on Google Maps date from October 10, 2014 and there are VKontakte photos tagged in the area that show snow, suggesting that a significant force is still being maintained there.

Photos from one album which has been associated with the site were uploaded by soldier Aleksandr Maltsev on November 26, 2014. However , again, it is common to see large dumps of photos uploaded in one day. Certainly the same album depicts other sites, including Rostov-on-Don and far-away Altai Krai.

But the photos that show snow, like these uploaded by soldier Sergei Karashevcev in recent days, make it clear that the deployment has lasted well beyond the summer.

Here are some of Karashevcev's photos, geo-tagged in the Neklinovsky district, where the base is located:




It is interesting to note, however, that in contrast to the preponderance of T-90s seen in previous photos we believe to have been taken at the camp, the tank seen in the background in the first of Karashevcev's photos, behind the BMD vehicle, appears to be a T-80U


There are no reported sightings of this type of tank operating inside Ukraine.

Could it be that at the beginning of September, having planned a larger invasion, but with Ukraine having agreed to a truce at the Minsk agreements, and ostensibly deciding on granting the occupied regions "special status," the Kremlin believed that its short-term goals had been fulfilled? That is to say the creation of a "frozen" conflict zone that debilitates Kiev politically and eats up resources, leaving Moscow with powerful leverage over the Ukrainian government.

But the maintenance of the camp over the winter may also suggest that a wider invasion is still a possibility.

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Security Agents Detain Russian-Backed Fighter Suspected of Preparing Terrorist Attacks in Zaporozhe
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has detained a Russian-backed militant of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR), reports.

Translation: #SBU has detained a #DNR fighter who prepared terrorist attack in Zaporozhe.

A DNR fighter known by the nick-name Korol ("King") was detained on January 6, the SBU press service reported on its Facebook page. The Interpreter has a translation:

The 35-year-old fighter, a resident of Zaporozhe Region, voluntarily joined the unlawful armed formation Vostok in June of this year. He was given arms and sent to guard the administrative building seized by the terrorists in Donetsk. Furthermore, Korol, along with other fighters, carried out armed attacks on the civilian population and Ukrainian soldiers on the territory of the Donetsk region," says the statement from the SBU.

As was reported by the SBU, the chiefs of the bandit formations personally supplied the criminals with Utes machine guns, automatic grenade launchers (AGS) and RGD-5 grenades.

"Upon returning home, 'Korol' on assignments from the 'DNR' terrorists began the preparation for the commission of terrorist acts and sabotages of utility buildings in Zaporozhe with the use of arms and explosives," the press statement continues.

Agents said Korol was looking for helpers to spy on Ukrainian checkpoints and gather intelligence on the utilities buildings. They are currently investigating him.

A number of bombings have occurred in Odessa and Kharkiv in recent weeks, of both utilities and the offices of volunteers groups helping Ukrainian forces.

There an explosion of some medical buildings in Zaporozhe on July 22, but it is not known if this suspect is related to that incident.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick