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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 357

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
Newsweek Under Fire For Article About Ukrainian Defectors
Newsweek has been under fire for publishing a blatantly-false article about the Ukrainian military, which they have now revised:

The article, written by Damien Sharkov, has already been changed, but some are arguing it still contains misleading information. Here is the opening to the Newsweek article:

The Ukrainian parliament has approved a motion to allow commanders in the armed forces to fire at army deserters and use force against servicemen for “negligence” or “drinking alcohol” while on duty.

Julia Davis has written a detailed explanation of the problems with the Newsweek article, which has caused Newsweek to remove several passages and change several others. Still, Davis reports, the article is largely inaccurate and completely misleading:

With respect to deserters, Article 6 of the Disciplinary Code is amended to allow the commander to arrest any soldier for desertion or abandonment of their military unit or place of service. Going AWOL or a failure to report to duty after vacation for up to three days will cause an arrest and detention for up to 5 days. Absences without leave for three to 10 days, or several absences during the same year, will be penalized by detention for a period of 5 to 10 days. Prescribed penalties are quite different from the blatant lie disseminated by RT and Newsweek, claiming that deserters will be shot on sight.

Drinking alcohol while on duty will be punishable by a fine, or arrest and detention for up to 5 days. Again, this penalty is quite different from RT’s and Newsweek’s malarkey about “drastic measures” and bogus claims that drinking alcoholic beverages will now be “punishable by force.” Incredibly, the Human Rights Watch re-published these bogus claims, disseminating them on Twitter to the organization’s 1.65 million followers with a statement: “New Ukrainian law would authorize summary execution of deserters – a clear rights violation.” Accusing the largest country in Europe of summary executions is a very serious allegation that should have been independently verified by the Human Rights Watch.

As Davis also points out, this is not the first time Newsweek has been criticized for publishing articles by Sharkov about Ukraine. In an article titled "Ukrainian Nationalist Volunteers Committing 'ISIS-Style' War Crimes," Newsweek has now posted this correction:

Correction: This article originally mistakenly stated Ihor Kolomoyskyi offered a bounty for each killed 'saboteur', when it was in fact for each captured 'saboteur'. This has been corrected and Newsweek apologises for the error.

Just like on the new article, the correction is at the bottom.

Sharkov has been repeatedly criticized on Twitter for his article, but for the last 24 hours has been saying that he is reviewing the article, and its title, with his editors. This was sent 24 hours ago:


According to a sparse Linkedin page which we have yet to confirm belongs to the author in question, he received a Bachelor's degree at King's College London in 2014. He has no official biographical information on his Newsweek profile.

We have reached out to Sharkov for comment, but as of publishing this he has not yet responded. 

-- James Miller
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
France Says Russian Bombers Approached French Airspace on January 28
On January 28, the UK government reported that Russian strategic bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, were escorted by the Royal Airforce away from British airspace over the English channel. Now the French Defense Minister is reporting that those Russian aircraft also approached French airspace.

Le Monde also reports that the amount of Russian provocations near NATO airspace have grown exponentially in the last 11 months, corresponding exactly with Russia's military intervention in Crimea and then eastern Ukraine.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Obama And Merkel Give Joint Press Conference, Stressing Diplomatic Solutions And Debating Lethal Aid To Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are giving a joint press conference right now. Obama started his comments by discussing the economy, and then he moved on to discussing Ukraine. Obama started his comments on this crisis by speaking at length about how Russia has broken its word and has not abided by the Minsk agreements. But then Obama said that a diplomatic solution is the only way forward.


Merkel started her Ukraine comments by stressing the importance of maintaining Ukraine's territorial integrity and the territorial integrity of Europe, which Merkel said Russia has broken on two occasions: in Crimea, and in the Donbass. "We continue to pursue a diplomatic solution, though we have seen setbacks," and the world will  now see whether both sides are interested in pursuing diplomacy.

The first question from the press was about whether these two powers would send arms to Ukraine, and what the path forward would be if the talks this week failed. Obama started by making a broader point -- the possibility for a military solution to this problem has always been "low," and "given the length of the Russian border with Ukraine... the history of Russia and Ukraine," Russia could invade Ukraine if it wanted to. The key, then, is to make Russia pay for its interference. The strategy now is that if the costs are high enough then Russia will pursue a diplomatic solution, and if the talks are not successful then the "costs" will need to be raised.

The key statement -- if diplomatic talks fail, then Obama is considering military aid to Ukraine. But he stressed that no decision on this has been made. Most of the "costs" discussed in this conference have been economic.

Obama went on to discuss the need to help the Ukrainian economy recover and reform. "One of the most important things we can do to help Ukraine is to help them succeed economically," Obama said.

"If diplomacy fails," Obama went on, then Europe and the United States are on the same page (though there may or may not be "tactical differences") -- costs need to be raised on Russia to deter them further,

Merkel then made a very interesting statement: "If success is not possible," then the United States and Europe will have to reassess what needs to be done. However, on the issue of arming Ukraine, Merkel said "my position on this has been made known." In other words, she will not support such a deal.

Merkel also said that the most important thing is to show the world that Germany and the United States are "very close" on this issue, describing the transatlantic partnership as crucial to world security.

Merkel said that the path forward was local elections in the Donbass in accordance with the constitution of Ukraine.

Obama did, however, seem to push back on the point of weapons a little by saying that any weapons given to Ukraine would be defensive, given to dissuade Russia from pushing deeper into Ukraine. He also stressed that his decision has not yet been made.

"We are not looking for Russia to fail. We are not looking to keep Russia surrounded or contained..." Our purpose, Obama explained,  is to have Russia be a constructive global partner in solving world problems, and Russia's efforts in Ukraine have undermined its economy and its global standing in the world.

The conference continues, but the topic has shifted to Iran's nuclear deal, one area where Obama hopes that Russia will be a cooperative international partner in brokering any deal.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Fighting Reported On Debaltsevo-Artyomovsk Highway

At 14:42 GMT, Semyon Semyonchenko, an MP and the commander of the Donbass Battalion, wrote on his Facebook page that fighting was under way near Logvinovo, on the vital highway linking Debaltsevo with Artyomovsk.

Severing this route and completely isolating the Ukrainian-held town of Debaltsevo is the aim of the Russian-backed offensive in the area. 

Pyotr Shkulinov suggested, in a piece for LIGA BusinessInform, that Russia would attempt to complete the encirclement of Debaltsevo ahead of the peace talks on Wednesday, Febuary 11.

Shkulinov wrote that, while Russian troops had reached the highway at Logvinovo, they had been repelled by Ukrainian army and Donbass Battalion fighters, who had been reinforced with armour.

In addition, he wrote that, as of 14:00 (12:00 GMT) today, reports indicated that Russian and separatist forces had taken the switching yard on the railway line to the north-east of Debaltsevo.

Meanwhile Eduard Basurin, the deputy military commander of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic,' claimed that separatist forces had taken the villages of Kalinovka and Redkodub.

Video footage also showed fighters (in a location we have not so far geolocated) claiming to have captured Redkodub.

Shkulinov produced this basic map, to which we have added English annotations, to illustrate the situation today:


150209-shkulinov-map.jpg

This meanwhile is a map from the pro-separatist Dragon_first_1 blog, which, while perhaps skewed, does in fact give more territory south of Debaltsevo to the Ukrainians than Shkulinov's:

150209-dragon-map.jpg

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
More On Reported Airstrikes Near Debaltsevo

Yuri Butusov, editor at Censor.NET, has quoted more from senior lieutenant Lamaka, a deputy company commander in the 40th motorised infantry battalion fighting near Debaltsevo.

Lamaka responded to doubts regarding the veracity of his report that Russian Su-25 attack jets had conducted an air strike on Ukrainian defensive positions.

The Interpreter translates:

"To anyone who thinks that we made up the report of the airstrike, I invite you here outside Debaltsevo. You can check by inspecting our defensive positions. I guarantee an unforgettable experience."

Lamaka said that, immediately after the first aircraft flew over, they were subjected to a wave of heavy bombardment. He added that his whole unit had observed the aircraft, and that he would file a full report once the shelling stops.

Lamaka also noted that it was only and immediately after the Censor.NET report was published that their military commanders re-established communications with his unit, which had been down for five days. For the first time in five days, his unit was provided with effective artillery support.

TSN journalist Andriy Tsaplienko wrote on his Facebook page that, while he could not confirm the air strike on the 40th battalion's positions, observers at other Ukrainian positions had maintained that a pair of Su-25s had been seen over the Debaltsevo area.

-- Pierre Vaux


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