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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Ukraine Live Day 329

Publication: Ukraine Liveblogs
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Does New Video Show The Russian Military Taking Control Of Krasnodon?

A new video has surfaced which may show Russian soldiers and military vehicles moving into Krasnodon in the Lugansk region, where several embattled separatist commanders have been attacked, or even assassinated, by other separatist units in recent weeks.

Weeks ago, a prosecutor for the self-declared 'Lugansk People's Republic' (LNR) admitted that an arrest warrant had been issued for a separatist commander, Aleksandr Bednov, known as "Batman," for operating a torture chamber, and that afterwards he and many of his men were killed in an ambush. Some have speculated that "Batman" and his men had grown too independent, and required more careful "managing" by the Russian military, others, including notorious Batman member Alexei Milchakov, claimed that the Bednov had been killed for having interfered with the activities of drug runners connected to the LNR leadership.

On January 10, the separatist 'Odessa' militant unit announced on their VKontakte page that their base in Krasnodon had been surrounded by what they described as private military contractors. They noted that readers ought not to confuse these PMCs with the "polite people," a popular term for unmarked Russian soldiers as seen in Crimea.

Ukrainian journalist Roman Bochkala claimed, however, that the forces surrounding the Odessa unit were in fact Russian spetsnaz troops, "allegedly," he wrote, "Vympel, supported by heavy equipment."

The unit surrendered without a fight and was disarmed. There there were no reported casualties. 

Crimean blogger Colonel Cassad reported that the 'Lugansk Guard' group had announced that Odessa fighters would be integrated into the "army of the LNR," but that the unit had ceased to exist and the fate of the commander was now unknown.

There have been several claimed reasons for the units defenestration, with allegations from Odessa themselves that Oleg Bugrov, the "commander of the LNR People's Militia," was betraying separatist fighters.

Another separatist militant quoted by Colonel Cassad, 'Sych' (owl), claimed that the media had exaggerated the situation, denying the presence of spetsnaz or PMCs, claiming that rather than a wave or repressions being under way, the LNR leadership is disarming looters.

A source of Cassad's in Krasnodon claimed that one of the main causes of the conflict has been miscommunication about humanitarian aid and its ferrying down the line from the border town.

The Ukrainian Sirgis Inform website reported that one member of Odessa, known as Varyag, had said, in a video uploaded to YouTube but now rendered "private," that his unit had been attacked for disrupting smugglers' activities on the border.

Video footage, geolocated near the Odessa base in Krasnodon, may in fact show the forces that surrounded the unit.

The first thing we noticed was that Russian BPM-97 armoured vehicles are seen in this footage. These weapons, discussed at length here, are exclusively used by the Russian border guard (the Ukrainian government does not possess these vehicles) and are so new to this fight that a report which is only months old from Armament Research Services (ARES) does not include them on the list of weapons used in this war. The presence of these vehicles suggests either direct Russian intervention in this case or the use of BPM-97s, recently supplied from Russia, by LNR forces. We also know (and ARES confirms) that T-72s, also visible in this video, are not used by Ukrainian forces. To our knowledge, the GAZ Vodnik is also not used by Ukrainian forces and we're not aware of it being used in this conflict before now. Krasnodon has, of course, regularly seen the arrival of fresh armour and troops from Russia.

The combination of these weapons, all of which had to have been supplied by the Russian military, and the size of this convoy is suspicious and cause for alarm. 

The following is an assessment of this new video by blogger Dajey Petros of Ukraine At War, authorized by The Interpreter: The original video was removed by the user, but Petros uploaded a copy before it was erased.

Petros also notes that this may be proof that the Russians are taking direct control of the situation in Krasnadon. However, as we can see, the narrative is not so clear, and the line between the Russian military and at least some of the groups which they support is blurred, at best.

 -- James Miller and Pierre Vaux

A video appeared of a secretly filmed convoy with the newest Russian armor, reported to be in Krasnodon.

Screenshots of the video show GAZ Vodnik, BPM-97, T-72B1, about 30 vehicles in total with lots of infantry.

Krasnodon-13-620x348.jpg

Krasnodon-12-620x348.jpg

Krasnodon-11-620x348.jpg

Krasnodon-16-620x348.jpg

These GAZ-3937 have been spotted in Ukraine several other times already.

The video is reported to be in Krasnodon, but unfortunately there is no Google streetview available in Krasnodon. Nevertheless we can still safely conclude it was there:

There are only a few cities in East-Ukraine with trolleybus lines (Donetsk, Alchevsk, Lugansk and Krasnodon).

  1. Also, this blog already geolocated another video with BPM-97 in Krasnodon. This video may be related to that event, and it also shows that the streets are either similar or the same.
  2. All elements in the video indicated in the pictures below can indeed be found in Krasnodon:

Krasnodon-4-620x348.jpg

This Panoramio photo shows that Krasnodon indeed has similar trolleybus line, lanterns and the white paint on the bottom of the poles, matching the picture above:

Krasnodon-10-620x303.jpg

This Panoramio photo shows that there are also big billboards and some perpendicular poles for the trolleybus lines:

61537460-620x465.jpg

Matching this screenshot from the video:

Krasnodon-5-620x348.jpg

Now we can try to find a billboard at the side of the road and see if we can match everything with a screenshot.

This location gives a perfect match:

Krasnodon-14-620x648.jpg

On the map that looks like this:

Krasnodon-15-620x425.jpg

They are driving towards the base of the 'Odessa' unit.

-- Dajey Petros 

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Shelling Targeting Donetsk Airport Increasing Right Now
We're watching the live video feed pointed towards the Donetsk International Airport, which has been under intense attack all day (see previous updates below), In the last half hour or so, the shelling targeting the airport has intensified significantly.

Following a particularly-large volley of outgoing rockets which appear to have hit the airport or areas nearby, a series of incendiary flares have also been fired toward the Ukrainian military position, perhaps illuminating the base for another ground offensive.

LIVE-Camera-facing-Donetsk-airport-amid-

LIVE-Camera-facing-Donetsk-airport-amid-

RFE/RL has this video, posted earlier today -- a behind-the-scenes tour of both parts of the airport controlled by the Ukrainian military, and areas of the old terminal controlled by the Russian-backed separatists. If you look carefully, you can see that some of the terminal controlled by the insurgents looks like video we posted earlier showing the fighting.

-- James Miller
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Identifying Russian Tanks In Ukraine

The Interpreter has been establishing the presence of Russian equipment in Ukraine for some time. One excellent resource on this topic, however, is a report by Armament Research Services (ARES) which released a 100-page report (discussed here) detailing weapons used by the Ukrainian military and the Russian-backed separatists. Some of the weapons used by the separatists ARES has called "red flags" since either Ukraine has not deployed the weapons to the front lines, or because Ukraine has never had possession of the weapons in the first place -- meaning they almost certainly came from Russian military stockpiles. 

Another helpful guide, however, is this document just made by the Ukraine At War blog, which helps identify the difference between tanks used by the Ukrainian military as well as the separatist, and vehicles that Ukraine does not use but which have shown up on the front lines anyway.

-- James Miller
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Ukrainian POW Facing Murder Charges In Russia Will Not End Hunger Strike After 30+ Days

Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian airforce pilot who was kidnapped by Russian-backed separatists, dragged across the border into Russia, and is now facing murder charges in the deaths of two journalists whom she almost certainly never encountered, has released a letter stating that despite the insistence of many people in Ukraine, she will not end her hunger strike because it is the only weapon she has against this injustice:

Yulya Tymoshenko wrote me a letter in which she asks me to suspend my hunger strike and preserve my strength since “the enemy needs us to be weak”.  These are very wise words. Thank you, Yulya Volodymyrovna.

But I want to reassure you that I have never been weak and never will be! They cannot break my spirit, and I’m not going to get into battle with the prison guards!  The main thing is to hold out in spirit, and my physical strength will recover. .. And if God has need for something else, then so be it … the loss of one fighter is a very great loss, but it is in no way a lost war!  Ukraine will win!”

Well, a person who was born free and not a slave in captivity, cannot live in prison. Especially if he or she is innocent.

Through my protest – my hunger – I wish to achieve common sense from the Russian authorities and an awakening of conscience from the Russian Investigative Committee. There is irrefutable evidence of my lack of involvement and innocence of the crimes they accuse me of.  What else do they need?

I have taken the decision to go on hunger strike myself and nobody pushed me into it. I have given my word that “Until the day I return to Ukraine, or until the last day of my life in Russia!” and I will not back down, otherwise what value would my words have?!

Read the entire letter here

On January 9 we reported that Savchenko was on the 28th day of her hunger strike and had reportedly lost 10 kg [22 pounds], but insisted that any forced-feeding would be considered torture. 

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Hungary To Restore Flow of Gas To Ukraine

After unexpectedly stopping reverse natural gas flow to Ukraine three months ago, Hungary is now set to restart reverse flows. The Hungarian news agency Portfolia.hu reports:

Hungarian gas transmission company FGSZ Ltd. interrupted reverse gas transmission to Ukraine through the separate pipeline from Testvériség (Brotherhood) pipeline on 25 September 2014 for an indefinite period, saying it needed its pipeline capacities for raised gas imports as storage facilities were being filled up for the winter. 

Previously it was delivering 3-4 mcm of natural gas per day to Ukraine, instead of the maximum capacity of 16.8 mcm. Then FGSZ said that up to 6,1 billion cubic metres of gas per year - 16.8 mcm per day - ha been delivered to Ukraine since March 2013. The company added, though that the capacity is not guaranteed, as it is "dependent on prevailing technical and commercial conditions." 

Naftogaz Ukraine linked the suspension with a visit to Budapest of Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, and "gas talks" between Ukraine and Russia with the participation of the EU. 

-- James Miller
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