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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 340

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
Crimean Tatar Rights Activist Deported from Native Crimea
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
There Is No Ceasefire In Ukraine. There May Be No Strategy To Counter Russian Aggression, Either

There has been a significant amount of fighting in eastern Ukraine over the last 24 hours. As far as we can tell, the new agreement between Ukraine and Russia which emerged from the talks in Berlin late at night on January 21 have accomplished little or nothing.

We predicted that at the time:

Here are some excerpts from this morning's briefing from the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council:
3 dead and 50 wounded is a significant amount of casualties, comparable to the height of the fighting last autumn. Now let's take a look at the map of the fighting, which reveals that there is literally fighting on every front:

A closeup of the map shows that there is a significant amount of fighting around Donetsk Airport, which as far as we can determine is now mostly in control of the Russian-backed separatists, and Debaltseve which Ukraine still controls but which is surrounded on three sides by Russian and Russian-backed forces:

ATO-map-zoom-on-donetsk-20150123-620x595

Near the airport, we just carried a report that 20 Russian-backed fighters have been killed. But in that report we also see that new territory is now being fought over, and despite this reported victory, the Ukrainian government appears to still be losing ground.

From Debaltseve, Kyiv Post's Maxim Tucker has a similar report:

A Ukrainian military spokesman (known for his passionate outbursts and his blocking of journalists who don't share his views) has pushed back on Tucker's assessment, but it's worth noting that Tucker's pessimism in the last few weeks has been warranted (and is shared by this author).

Tucker's report from the besieged city is ominous and suggests that, just like at Donetsk Airport, with each victory the Ukrainian government's soldiers win, the fighting still brings them closer to ultimate defeat. In this battle, however, there are more civilians who are trapped:

“The road we’re standing on now is the connection between Ukraine and Rostov-on-Don, Russia,” the Ukrainian soldier said as he motioned to an icy, cratered road punctuated with concrete-clad blockposts and demarcated on both sides by deep virgin snow.

“On the left side, the LPR (separatist Luhansk People’s Republic), on the right, the DPR (separatist Donetsk People’s Republic),” the soldier went on. “People are trying to leave there and come here, so we need to keep the road open. But this means the enemy can see us, and they are constantly attacking our position.”

Those attacks intensified as separatists surged forward, having forced Ukrainian troops to abandon Donetsk Airport after 242 days. Now Debaltseve, with a pre-war population of 30,000 residents and once a working railway center, stands as the easternmost bastion of Ukrainian forces in Donetsk Oblast.

UNIAN reports that one civilian died in Debaltseve on Friday morning, hit by incoming artillery fire from Russian-backed militants.

"According to [Interior Ministry in Donetsk region Viacheslav Abroskin], there is no light, water and heat in Avdiivka and Debaltseve."

But this is just the situation on the northwestern front of the fighting. The Russian-backed rebels are still on the offensive on the Bakhmutka Highway, between Lugansk and Donetsk. And there are still reported attacks near Mariupol and elsewhere on the southern front as well.

In other words, this is a major offensive, and it's not clear whether Ukraine has the military capacity to stop the advance of the Russian-backed fighters.

NATO says they're worried that the Russian-backed rebels have launched a new offensive and have rejected peace negotiations:


But as I pointed out last night, Western strategy appears to rely on Russia fulfilling its end of the Minsk accord, and bringing the Russian-backed separatists along with them, but at the same time the United States and its allies do not believe that Russia is a reliable partner. So what is the strategy?
Meanwhile, some late-breaking news from Maxim Tucker:
-- James Miller
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Poroshenko Dismisses Head Of SBU Counter-Terrorism Centre

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has dismissed the head of the counter-terrorism centre within the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU).

According to a presidential decree, published this afternoon on the president's website, Gennady Ivanovich Kuznetsov has been "relieved of his duties as head of the Centre for special counter-terrorism operations, the protection of participants in criminal justice and law enforcement personnel of the Ukrainian Security Service."

The centre commands the Alfa special forces unit. 

Kuznetsov was appointed to this post on March 7 by the then-acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, replacing Oleg Prisyazhny.

He was wounded near Slavyansk in April, when his car was fired on.

President Poroshenko has now appointed a replacement for the position, one Boris Hennadievich Balioz.

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
"Donetsk People's Republic" Won't Take Prisoners Anymore?
Blogger Leonid Ragozin carries a shocking statement from self-appointed head of the 'Donetsk People's Republic,' Alexander Zakharchenko:

Does that mean that the DNR is now going to execute all Ukrainian POWs?

We're looking for more details now, but as we have been reporting today, Zakharchenko has said that he rejects the notion of a truce. The DNR will continue to fight.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Report Claims More Than 20 Russian And Separatist Fighters Killed In Failed Attacks On Ukrainian Positions Near Airport

There are reports that two columns of Russian and separatist fighters have been destroyed today after they moved on Ukrainian positions near Donetsk Airport.

Yuriy Biryukov, an adviser to President Poroshenko, wrote on his Facebook page that, at dawn today, two trucks carrying personnel and several MT-12 anti-tank guns, escorted by BMPs and BTRs, approached Ukrainian positions.

We note that Biryukov says that the Russian-backed force was moving to assault Donetsk Airport, however, since the main position at the new terminal has now fallen, we can only assume this refers to positions on the northern or western perimeters of the airfield.

The Russian, pro-separatist militarymaps.info still claims that a radar station, just north of the runway, is still under Ukrainian control. This site meanwhile claims that Peski has almost entirely fallen to Russian-backed forces, something we have not seen supporting evidence of so far. The most recent map from the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council claims Peski, while under attack, is still in Ukrainian hands.

150123-mm.png

We note that in Biryukov's photos from today, windbreaks are visible running perpendicular to a road with arrow markings.

1619482_1551700295098782_196076844114673

The only route we can see that runs perpendicular to windbreaks in the immediate area, and that has such markings visible on Google Earth images (as of September last year), is the bypass road running between Peski and the M04 highway.

150123-bypass.png

It seems likely then that the engagement took place somewhere along this route, though we cannot say for sure.

With the convoy detected by Ukrainian scouts, artillery fire was brought to bear. According to Biryukov, the advance was halted and, after two hours of shelling, during which he claims the enemy fighters "dug their own graves," the column was destroyed.

The presidential adviser claimed that more than 20 Russian and separatist fighters had been killed and around a dozen taken prisoner. After receiving first aid, they were, he wrote, being interrogated.

Biryukov said that he and other activists had been asked by the ATO command to gather evidence at the site, and that a journalist from the Los Angeles Times was also on the scene.

He posted photos of knocked out vehicles, dead fighters, Russian rations, and military identity cards for both the Russian Federation and the 'Donetsk People's Republic.'

10929133_1551700205098791_68368572331166

10941009_1551700308432114_49330016095227

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9813_1551700451765433_515358316780206337

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-- Pierre Vaux

 

 

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