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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 343

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.
Further on the POWs at Krasny Partizan

Nikolai Kolesnik of Krivoy Rog, advisor to Dnepropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoyskyi and patron of the 40th Battalion of Territorial Defense of the Ukrainian forces, reported on his Facebook page at 10:11 am on January 25 that the men of the 20th Battalion were taken prisoner near Krasny Partizan. The Interpreter has a translation:

Our neighbors who were serving in the 20th battalion were taken prisoner in the village of Krasny Partizan. The prisoner exchange will be handled by the Ruban Center ("Officers Corps" ) and representatives of the ATO (Anti-Terrorist Center). On their side, Darya Morozova, the ombudsman of the so-called DNR will be involved in the exchange.

A request to the volunteers, to those concerned: do not try to load up either side in the process now with requests, advice, etc. etc. Without the personal order of Zakharchenko, no one will be given up. Excessive agitation will provide a reason for speculation, and as experience has shown, will not bring real help. Strength of spirit to the guys. Patience to the relatives and loved ones.

Yury Yuryevich Varfolomeyev, 1984
Aleksandr Nikolayevich Beryemenno, 1972
Oleg Alekseyevich, 1981
Sergei Anatolyevicn Stepanov, 1981
Belishev, 1972.


Aleksandr Viktorovich Shebets, 1987, Nikolayevka
Dmtry Vladimirovich Zuyev, 1976, Dnepropetrovsk
Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Filippov, 1985, Dnepropetrovsk
Yury Aleksandrovich Yanitsky, 1978, Nikopol

These men are in captivity. There are 5 more who were killed, we will get the exact names.

I urge all Internet publications who take information from my page not to write crap. I am not the commander of the Krivbass 40th Battalion. [Earlier, had misreported his position; he is in fact not a military commander, but a patron of the 40th Battalion and an advisor to Dnepropetrovsk Region Governor Ihor Kolomoyskiy--The Interpreter].

Then later at 11:59 on January 25, Kolesnik reported on his Facebook:

The names of the guys from the 20th Battalion who were defending the checkpoint near Krasny Partizan:

Albert Georgiyevich Sarukhonyan of Krivoy Rog
Sergei Stanislavovich Slesarenko of Dneprodzerzhinsk
Roman Nikolayevich Sekh of Pokrovka, Krivorozhsky District
Andrei Vladimirovich Kolesnik of Chumaki, Krivorozhsky Rayon.

Father Dmitry of the 20th Battalion himself came to pick up the 200s [dead] at the scene and is involved in helping the 300s [wounded] who are prisoners of the DNR fighters, a man of rare courage.

God rest the souls of our heroes.

Kolesnikov did not make any mention in either post of the allegation that some of the POWs had been executed, and was expecting an exchange of those who remained alive.

He did not indicate who the fifth prisoner was who had died, but it was likely a wounded POW.

In the comments to his post, one man notes that the men guarding the checkpoint had only one BMP and no binoculars. Militants from Gorlovka had come and threatened them with destruction a number of times, he said.

According to a news report in, on January 24, DNR forces attacked the Krasny Partizan checkpoint located between Donetsk and Gorlovka. Ukrainian forces were proposed to leave the surrounded village or surrender.

"As a result of the ensuing battle, several Ukrainian soldiers were killed, and the rest retreated or surrendered into captivity," said

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Grants Savchenko Immunity

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has granted immunity to Nadia Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot who was captured by Russian-backed forces, kidnapped to Russia, and charged with the murder of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine (see our earlier discussion of Savchenko below). What's interesting about this development, however, is that Russia is a member of PACE and so, under this decision, would be bound to release Savchenko. RFE/RL reports:

PACE says Savchenko's immunity obligates Russia to release her immediately from pretrial detention in Moscow, where she is being held on suspicion of contributing to the death of two Russian journalists during a military operation in eastern Ukraine...

A report in Ukrainska Pravda cited unnamed sources at the PACE session as suggesting the Russian delegation had officially stated it supported the decision to release Savchenko.

If true, the statement represents an apparent about-face from the delegation's previous position.

As of writing this, it remains unclear if and when Savchenko will be released from prison, however.

-- James Miller
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Video Shows Both Dead and Alive POWs in Krasny Partizan

A video of POWs taken after a battle in Krasny Partizan, along with soldiers who had died was uploaded to YouTube on January 24.

[Warning: graphic]:

Most of the POWs are from the town of Krivoy Rog, Dnepropetrovsk or other towns in the Dnepropetrovsk Region. They had all been drafted in the army.


The interrogator asks them all their names and towns of origin and then also points to some men in the line with them who are wounded or already dead.

There has been some concern that some of these POWs have been executed and those still alive may still await execution.

While that is always possible, we do not believe that the available evidence in the dialogue, the behavior of the prisoners, and the setting, proves that those who have died were executed.

There are holes in the wall which has led some to theorize these could be bullet holes. But they could be bullet holes but from shooting at another time, or perhaps just broken plaster. There are purported bullet holes behind the heads of some of the men who are still alive, possibly indicating that these are the result of a battle rather than an execution:


Furthermore, one of the men lying on the ground does not have any head wound. Another who is wounded and barely able to say his name also has no head wound. Only one man in the video has a head wound.

A second video [warning: graphic] evidently related to the first appears to show some of the same men, two of the same dead men and a third man who was the balding wounded man in the first video, barely able to say his name, who is now dead in the second video.

In the second video, the unit's name on the patches on their jackets is Rabovladeltsy which means "Slaveholders" in Ukrainian.

In the dialogue in the first video, the interrogator never threatens the POWs with execution or refers to those who are dead in the scene as having been executed.

The men in the line-up do not appear to be totally preoccupied or in shock as they might be expected if they were facing execution, although they do appear exhausted and reluctant to speak, and some of them have bleeding lacerations on their heads or hands.

Several times, the interrogator/camera man inquires whether someone is dead or live, but if he had been executed, the cameraman would have already been certain of his status. 

Here is a translation by The Interpreter of an excerpt start at 0:57:

Interrogator: Here. A 300 [wounded] or a 200 [dead].
Fighter: Is that a 300? Huh?
Interrogator: It looks like it
Fighter: He doesn't answer.
Fighter: I think that one's a 200 already.
Interrogator: That one's already gone. He's finished. Or is he still alive? No. And here's another one. That's how it is. And they came to us.
Fighter: Here's another one.
Interrogator. Where's another one?
Fighter: Over here.
Interrogator: Is he alive?
Fighter: He's wounded.
Interrogator: Last name!
Prisoner: Huh?
Interrogator: Last name!
Prisoner: Belyshev.
Interrogator: Where are you from?
Prisoner: From Krivoy Rog.
Interrogator: Krivoy Rog. What year were you born?
Prisoner: 1972.
Interrogator: What?
Prisoner: '72.
Interrogator: '72. Great guy. Well, we'll wait. So these guys came to us.

The prisoners, while understandably in a grim position, do not appear overly scared, and take an interest in whether their fellow prisoner who was wounded has died yet. They also answer all the questions asked of them.

The following is a another excerpt of the dialogue starting at 4:14, translated by The Interpreter:

Interrogator: Do you have a family?
Prisoner: Of course I do.
Interrogator: Married?
Prisoner: Married. Two daughters.
Interrogator: Two daughters. So you came to die here?
Prisoner: [hangs his head]
Interrogator: With two daughters. Yes?
Prisoner: No.
Interrogator: Then why?
[Goes to the next prisoner]
Interrogator: And you? Do you have a family? Who?
Prisoner: A wife and two children.
Interrogator: Two children as well. And you came here to die here for your
two children? And how will they be now?
[Goes to next prisoner]
Interrogator: And you?
Prisoner: A wife and two children.
Interrogator: Oh! Everybody has a pair.
[Goes to next prisoner.]
Prisoner: Also a wife and two children.
Interrogator: And yet another! Shit. What great guys here!
[Goes to another prisoner.]
Prisoner: A wife and one daughter.
Interrogator: A daughter. How old is she?
Prisoner: 10.
Interrogator: 10! And what will she tell you, her father?
Prisoner: [hangs his head]
Interrogator: And what about you?
Prisoner: I don't have a family. I have an elderly mother.
Interrogator: An elderly mother. Then she can castigate you.
[Goes to the next prisoner]
Prisoner: A wife and two children.
Interrogator: Two again. Great guys! Do you want to send any greetings to your relatives? Huh? You don't want to say anything? To your wife and children?
Prisoner: That I love them very much.
Interrogator: Does anybody else want to say anything? Or you don't want to say anything.
Prisoners: We love them very much.
Interrogator: They love you a lot, too. But you came here to kill our
children. Huh?
Another Separatist: Is there anyone from the Donbass?
[Prisoners shake their heads]
Interrogator: Oh, no, they're all from Dnepropetrovsk Region, Krivoy Rog. You came to kill our children.
Prisoner: No.
Interrogator: Then why did you come here?
Prisoner: We were mobilized.
Interrogator: You were mobilized. So you could give a fuck. You can kill children. You can bomb cities.
Prisoner: You can't.
Interrogator: Then why did you come here?
Prisoner: We were guarding the checkpoint.
Interrogator: Well. So your friends did, then. And what about him? He probably has children. That 300. Or 200. [wounded or dead, respectively - The Interpreter] Or whatever he is, over there. Well? Do you know at least what his name was?
Prisoners: [looking over at him] Roman.
Interrogator: From Krivoy Rog, too?
Prisoner: From Dnepropetrovsk Region.
Interrogator: Did he have children, too?
Prisoner: [nods].
Interrogator: Roman is now gone. And here's another one, on his way out. He probably has children, too.
Prisoner: He doesn't, no.
Interrogator: Well, thank God, they won't cry then.

The Russian-backed separatists in the video reiterate a message we have seen in dozens of similar videos of POWs for the last months, used in war propaganda:

o the draftees are Russian-speakers or Russians like the separatists and therefore the implication is that they shouldn't be going to war against the separatists;

o they were mobilized, and didn't volunteer, so there is still hope to appeal to their fellow draftees to resist the draft

o an attempt is made to shame them by telling them of civilians who have been killed by shelling, especially children;

o the point is made that the land that the POWs have been arrested on is the "land of the separatists," and the Ukrainian soldiers should not have "trespassed" on it.

While the interrogator asks the prisoners whether they have come to the Donbass to die, consistent with past films of this nature, the context is the implication that they will die in battle, not that they will be executed.

A third video (warnining: graphic) shows the former Ukrainian checkpoint at Krasny Partizan that the Russian-backed separatists have taken over.

In this third video about the battle, at 0:58, a soldier tells the Russian state news channel Rossiya 24 that there were "4 200s," i.e. those killed in action and the rest were taken captive. That suggests that they died in a firefight, not that they were executed.

A Cossack at 1:37 says they offered the men the opportunity to surrender, they refused, and they didn't want to leave, either.

As the Cossack explains at 2:05, this was a strategic checkpoint on an important road to control the area, because it leads to Gorlovka. He mentions Right Sector fighters that "held out to the end". He claims that the wounded prisoners were taken to the hospital, that one was picked up by his wife, and that they gave them food and cigarettes. He said "they are safe, and we promised the war is over for them if Poroshenko doesn't call them up again." But it is not clear what happened to the POWs.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Authorities Arrest Spotter in Mariupol Shelling; Grad Commander is Russian Officer
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) released a telephone intercept today that reportedly involved the spotter for the Russian commander of a unit with Grad rockets which were fired on Mariupol, killing 30 and injuring more than 90 on January 24.

In the video, Valery Sergeyevich Kirsanov discusses the shelling of Mariupol with a fighter named "Pepel" (Ash). The Interpreter has a translation:

Kirsanov: Yes.

Pepel: Aleksandr, well, you really, really, really overdid it. It's gone on the homes, the nine-story apartment buildings, the private sector, the Kievsky Market, in short...

Pepel: Oh, no...

The Ukrainian Authorities were then able to arrest Kirsanov and obtain a confession from him on videotape (translated by The Interpreter). We note that because Kirsanov is in custody his statements may be coerced.

I am Valery Sergeyevich Kirsanov, resident of Mariupol, born in 1975. About six years ago, I made the acquaintance of Sergei Leonidovich Ponomarenko. At the present time, Ponomarenko is the commander of the 1st Slavic Company of the Novorossiya Army. His call sign is "Terrorist". I knew that he was fighting on the side of the DNR, but even so, I kept in touch with him.

Under the subordination of Terrorist is a reconnaissance and artillery infantry. Ponomarenko called me about a month ago and asked me in the event of any questions coming up, if connection was lost with him, to call a man with the call sign "Pepel" [Ash] and he would solve any issues that came up for me regarding [inaudible] and here the connection would be with him.

Pepel called me two weeks ago and asked for the coordinates where there was a concentration of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Up until the end of 2014, I worked in the GAI [traffic police] and I knew visually where the armor of the active forces of the UA forces were. I knew they were within the bounds of the city and adjacent areas. I used the Google Earth program to get the coordinates which [inaudible] I gave to Pepel.

During the whole time I was in touch with him, I sent the coordinates of the Vinogradny, Petrovsky Trass and Taganrogsky checkpoints to him.

Interrogator: And after that, there was shelling of these checkpoints?

Kirsanov: Yes, there was shelling.

Interrogator: Of all of those sites?

Kirsanov: Almost all of them. As for the Taganrogsky Checkpoint, I gave the coordinates yesterday by SMS. They were supposed to work this at night, but they worked it in the morning.

Interrogator: At what time?

Kirsanov: Approximately at 8:00 am.

Interrogator: Today?

Kirsanov: Today, yes. I came to see what had happened there and I called Pepel and said he had missed by one kilometer. He asked, "From where is the shooting visible?" And I said, "From the direction of Vinogradsky. So. He said, "Well, alright." And I said, "There were a lot of people."  And then the connection...I said, "A lot of people were killed," and with that, the connection with him broke off.

Interrogator: That's clear. Who fired on the Vostochny micro-district today?

Kirsanov: Pepel's unit.

Interrogator: So you're certain of that.

Kirsanov: Yes. Pepel is an officer of the Russian [Federation] Army and is head of the artillery battalion.

As we reported, Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" first announced that the Russian-backed separatists were launching an offensive on Mariupol -- then when he found out civilians were killed, denied it.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Kiev Holds Rally For Ukrainian POW Facing Murder Charges In Moscow

Kyiv Post reports:

On Jan. 26, activists in Kyiv held a performance in a protest against imprisonment of Ukrainian female officer Nadiya Savchenko, 33, in a Russian prison.

A volunteer of the Aidar Battalion, she was captured on June 17 in Luhansk Oblast, refused to cooperate with Kremlin-backed separatists and illegally taken to Russia in what supporters says are trumped-up charges of being involved in the murders of two Russian journalists in the Donbas war. Savchenko denies all the accusations and is currently on the hunger strike.

RFE/RL adds that the Russian State Duma's speaker, Sergei Naryshkin, has refused to intervene and says that only the court system will judge Savchenko:

Naryshkin, speaking on January 25 after a meeting with Brasseur, said Savchenko's fate was up to Russia's courts.

Naryshkin said, "Only an investigation and the court can establish guilt; and if guilt is not proven, then she will be freed."

Critics say Russian courts do the Kremlin's bidding.

Savchenko is charged with the murder of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine. However, Savchenko is a pilot, and those journalists were killed by shelling, and thus almost-certainly had no role in their deaths. Furthermore, Savchenko is considered by most of the international community to be a prisoner of a war, meaning that she may have been kidnapped to Russia specifically to face these charges.

The OSCE Permanent Council is meeting now and will be discussing Savchenko, according to the U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE:

According to RFE/RL, Savchenko has lost 14 kilograms (more than 30 pounds) since the start of her hunger strike:
-- James Miller