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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 337

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.
Arrest Made in Kharkiv Court House Bombing of Leader of 'Exodus' Christian Conspiracist Group

Arsen Avakov, the Ukrainian Interior Minister, reported on his Facebook page this evening that an arrest had been made of a suspect in the bombing of Kharkiv yesterday January 19 outside of a court house. Thirteen people were injured, some seriously.

The Interpreter has a translation:

I am spending not a pleasant evening in my native Kharkiv. Not everyone will agree that one of the leaders of the so-called Iskhod [Exodus] -- a newly-appeared separatist organization -- will spend the night in a jail cell along with his KhNR flags... But I think he's in the right place...I really don't want Kharkiv to turn into one of the emptied-out cities of the occupied "Russian people's republic," nor do the rest of the people of Kharkiv. So, Mr. Novikov, I won't let you. We won't let you.

Avakov is likely making a joke here out of the initials "DNR," which stand for the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic," and putting a "Kh," which is the first letter of the Russian word "dick."

The rest of his post apparently comes from an official notice.

Law-enforcers have liquidated a separatist cell today, January 20 in Kharkiv Region. As the result of a special operation carried out by police, an organization of pro-Russian activist ceased its existence. During a search of the group's office, law-enforces removed anti-Ukrainian agitation literature.

The special operation was conducted by field agent divisions of the police and the regional office of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU). The activity of the so-called "Exodus" group has been ended. The civic movement "Exodus" loudly announced itself on the Internet a month ago. For the first days of its existence, its participants did not conceal their open intent to engage in subversive activity in the peaceful Kharkiv region.

He did not provide further information about the group, but pictures were attached of Novikov wearing the St. George ribbon common to Russian ultranationalists and Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine along with the "Novorossiya" flags seized during the search of his office.



A local news site Vecherniy Kharkiv [Evening Kharkov] reported tonight that searches had been underway in the city related to the terrorist attack, and that the first arrests had been made.

Kharkiv's Governor Igor Baluta wrote on his Facebook page today just one line: "It's all over with Iskhod."

Parliamentarian and former Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko wrote on his Facebook page:

Separatist leader Oleg Novikov, whose underground pseudonym was 'Joe Silver' has been detained. Searches were made of the office, and the activity of an anti-Ukrainian organization was ended by a joint operation of the Interior Ministry and the SBU.

The bombing of the court house took place after the trial of a member of a far-right party, Svoboda, who was arrested for carrying a weapon in a voting precinct. It is not know if the Svoboda case was a pretext for the bombing by the group, said to be related to the separatists, or whether it is related.

Translation: Lubkivsky: In Kharkiv a search of the organization of the Iskhod organization was made as part of a special operation.

Translation: Kharkiv. Victims from the explosion yesterday: a 13 screw in the lung and a pierced jacket.

The group's web site is still viewable here.


The site in the Russian language has a number of news stories about recent attacks in various cities, including the blowing up of a bridge and a train in Zaporozhskaya Region, hacks by the anti-Kiev group CyberBerkut and the explosion at the court house in Kharkiv.

A video explains the group's purpose:

Novikov, the same man who has been arrested, says the full name of the groups is Social Christian Civic Movement and that it was registered in November 2014 with the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice. He said the name was inspired by Moses leading the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt, and makes an analogy to the Russian people of Kharkiv who are under the yoke of oligarchs.

He believes that the land where they are located is part of the "Russian World," a concept of pan-Russianism espoused by President Vladimir Putin. Novikov believes they are passing on the genes and culture of Mother Russia. The group advocates social equality, better labor conditions, low-cost loans and social security.

Novikov speaks in quite, even tones espousing the typical views of many people in the Donbass regarding the oligarchs, but then soon turns to rambling about his notions of conspiracy -- that "American and Israeli masters" are instigating war and pulling the strings of events in Ukraine. While inspired by Moses, the group's site nevertheless has antisemitic posters claiming that all the leaders of Ukraine have Jewish names:


One poster blasts "American democracy" which "comes at a high price" and "has no value," as it is to blame for instability in Ukraine; such democracy has ostensibly deprived the former Soviet people of Ukraine of free speech and a good standard of living:


The leaders are like serpents destroying the authentic people:


A number of Soviet-style inspirational posters are also provided on issues like labor, wages, and loans, making the point that life was better under the Soviet system.


The propaganda stokes people's fear of violence, which they claim all emanates from Kiev. One poster refers to the more than 500 Lenin statutes that have removed around Ukraine, and says "Today a crowd on the street decides to tear down a statue; tomorrow, your house."


It is not clear from the videos or the articles or forum how the group came to justify committing acts of violence themselves within their Orthodox socialist ideology which claims to seek justice and welcomes people of all faiths. It is also not known whether there are more people in the movement besides Novikov (police have spoke of multiple arrests), and whether he is taking responsibility for the explosions in Kharkiv and other cities.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Video Appears To Show Significant Column Of Russian Armor Headed Toward Ukraine
Earlier we posted an analysis of this video which reportedly shows a significant amount of Russian firepower, including T-80U battle tanks, headed toward the Ukrainian border.

As we noted, however, the location had not been confirmed. We showed the video to Ukraine at War's Dajey Petros who says he believes that these vehicles are near Ryasnoye, in the Bryanskaya Region of Russia (map).


He notes that the convoy may have been dispatched from a very large base located in Golovinka (a massive Russian military base discussed in a previous investigation by The Interpreter, the yellow area highlighted in the southeast on this map) and the convoy is most likely going to Amvrosiivka, since it is the shortest route to Donetsk and surroundings.

To determine this location, Dajey Petros first identified several key features across multiple frames of the video:

convoy-3.jpgThe yellow markers are buildings, the green markers are trees or treelines. There are some road signs, which often are visible in Google Maps. This could match the location given in the map above, as we see from the picture, as found by @5urpher:


An enlarged picture of one of the buildings:


Still, this is inconclusive. However, further examining the pattern of trees provides a clue. The car is driving south, so the trees on the opposite side of the street are on the east side of the road. As we can see, the pattern of trees matches the Google map:


This is evidence that the vehicles in the video are indeed north of Ryasnoye, headed north toward the Ukrainian border. 

Of course, whether they will cross the border and join the offensive against Ukraine is still unknown.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Video Reportedly Shows Russian-Backed Fighters Firing Mortar From Residential Alley
We've been discussing the issue of human shields, particularly in and around Donetsk, as Russian-backed fighters attack Ukrainian positions from residential neighborhoods, and the Ukrainian forces have moved into some of those same areas to fight back. Civilian casualties are mounting:

Now, a video head emerged which reportedly shows Russian-backed militants firing a mortar from a narrow residential alley in Gorlivka. The men are filmed from either a window or balcony of a residential home, and looks almost directly down at the fighters. Another house is also in very close proximity.

The people taking the video appear to be either residents who are supportive of the Russian-backed militants, or Russian-backed militants themselves, since they are making supportive comments about how the weapon is not working well, at one point saying "the visibility is poor."

But if the Ukrainian military returned fire on these fighters, there is a good chance that perhaps several of the houses would receive damage.

It's worth noting that we have not confirmed the location of this video, nor have we confirmed that these are Russian-backed fighters who are firing the mortar, but that is the narrative which has been attached to the video.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Video Shows Russian-Backed Fighters Attacking Donetsk Airport

This video, dated today, shows some of the fighting at the airport. It appears to have been taken by Russian-backed militants. The militants appear to be mainly focusing their fire (and receiving returning fire) from the second floor.

It's not exactly clear whether there are still Russian-backed fighters in the building. In the first few frames of the video, the separatists taking the video say "that's coming from us," regarding the firing, but then they say "from the first floor" and then say "the Ukrainians" but you can't hear them over the roar of the artillery shots (perhaps a mortar, which appears to be operated by the Russian-backed fighters just out of frame to the left).

Our two thoughts on the video: it proves that the Russian-backed fighters do not control the airport and appear to have been pushed back much further than they were at this time last week. It also proves that despite Ukraine's counter-attack, the Russian-backed fighters are still on the doorstop of Ukrainian military positions at the airport, meaning that the battle is far from over and the tide could easily turn once again.

-- James Miller/ Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Says It's Halted Advance of 'Russian Troops,' Controls Checkpoints 29 and 31

Earlier we carried a report that the Ukrainian military had lost control of checkpoint 31, on the Bakhmutka highway leading west of Lugansk. However, the spokesperson for the Ukrainian military ATO says the checkpoint is embattled but has not been overrun by Russian-backed forces:

Spokesman Andriy Lysenko said at a special news briefing in Kyiv, "Heavy fighting is continuing near the [Ukrainian army] checkpoints 29 and 31,"  referring to a part of Luhansk region near the border with Russia.

"Ukrainian forces have stopped the advance of Russian troops.... The situation in the conflict zone is serious but under our control," said Lysenko.

Whether that position has fallen remains unclear. What is clear is that there has been an intense attack on Ukrainian positions in this region. Ukraine also continues to say that Russia has sent troops and tanks across the border in the last few days, so the coincidence of those reports and reports of heavy fighting is fueling speculation of a significant mobilization of Russian and separatist forces.

-- James Miller