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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 359

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
No Minsk Announcement Tonight?
Several news agencies are reporting that according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a new peace deal may be signed tomorrow, but not tonight:

It's currently nearly 11:30 PM in Minsk.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Hospital in Donetsk Hit By Shells As Minsk Peace Talks Begin

RFE/RL reports:

At least one person has been reported killed after an artillery shell hit a hospital in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

A spokeswoman for the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, Yuliana Bedilo, said the shell "hit hospital No. 20, setting it on fire" during the evening of February 11.

The press service for the local emergency services said at least eight people were injured, most suffered from burns after part of the building caught fire.

The news outlet Novosti.dn.ua  has posted this video which reportedly shows the shelling, though we cannot verify the video because it was taken at night.

Earlier we reported that a bus station in central Donetsk was hit by shelling, killing at least one civilian.

The OSCE has yet to release today's spot report from the Special Monitoring Mission.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
At Minsk Peace Talks The Pictures Tell Us Everything -- And Nothing
Many people are watching every little detail to come out of the Minsk talks, looking for a sign of what's to come. But until there is an official statement, this process is likely to be fruitless. For instance the Russian news outlet RBC reported that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stormed out of the meeting after an "emotional" meeting with Putin. But it seems he only stepped out briefly, likely to make a phone call, or maybe to go to the bathroom. It's not really a data point:
But the pictures coming out of the meeting so far are telling a story -- an isolated Putin who has an icy (at best) relationship with his Ukrainian counterpart:

This picture was posted by The Insider:

6be77bc-p-51793511.jpg

In some of the pictures the body language is likely accidental or out of context. In others the message is clear. Regardless, the fact that Putin and Poroshenko don't like each other is as obvious as the fact that their two nations are engaged in a war. What's important is whether any new deal is struck, and how it is to be implemented.

The meeting in Minsk has now moved on to the next stage, and all the talks are private. There are contradictory reports about whether any official statement will be released today, so we'll keep an eye out for any verified news to come out of Minsk.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
First Meeting At Minsk Talks Adjourns Abruptly Without A Statement
UPDATED: The first meeting in Minsk between world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, has  abruptly ended. Despite this optimism from Interfax:
There are reports that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stormed out of the talks after speaking with Putin:
We have yet to confirm that, but the two leaders could barely hide their resentment toward each other:

It's unclear if there will be a statement after the next meeting.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Proposal by 'People's Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk' to Minsk Peace Talks - But Which 'Certain Districts'?

Aleksandr Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic," and Igor Plotnitsky, head of the "Lugansk People's Republic" have presented their demands to the Minsk talks.

The document has been leaked and published by 24todaynet as well as Zerkalo Nedeli and UNIAN which have published partial translations of the document into English.

The key aspects of the document involve yet another ceasefire and pulling heavy artillery back even further than under the Minsk agreement to at least 50 kilometers.

Interestingly, the Russian-backed separatist leaders reference the "annex" to the Minsk agreement which has not been acknowledged and about which there is some controversy, as ZN.ua reported (see our summary translation here, "'Topography of Blood' - Secret Annex to the Minsk Peace Agreements Shows Donetsk Airport Outside the Line of Contact").

A crucial issue is just which "certain districts of Donetsk and Lugansk Regions" are to be granted special autonomous status, effectively handing them to the separatists. No accepted, authorized list of these districts has ever been agreed to and published.

Will it include every town now being battled for fiercely by Russian-backed troops, sometimes even under Russian direction as in Debaltsevo, a key hub which militants claim they have now surrounded on all sides?

Will it include Kramatorsk, which the Russian-backed militants attacked yesterday with rockets, killing at least 7 civilians -- with weapon systems they may have obtained from Russia?

Will it contain every little town along the "line of contact" where there have been clashes and incidents if not outright battles, some of which are now re-taken by Ukrainian forces, such as Slavyansk, and some lost, such as the Donetsk Airport -- which the Ukrainian government maintains was never on the annex list as such.

The Russian-backed separatists also want to have Ukraine essentially admit defeat by February 23, 2015 -- a significant date not only because it is two weeks from now, but because it is the traditional Red Army Day of the Soviet Union, which since the collapse of the USSR has been celebrated in Russia as Fatherland Defenders Day.

This day was not celebrated in Ukraine after the end of the Soviet Union, but then it was restored under the presidency of Leonid Kuchma -- the Ukrainian interlocutor in the Minsk peace talks. President Petro Poroshenko abolished it, however, saying Ukraine should not celebrate "the military-historical calendar of Russia" but should honor the "defenders of our homeland, not someone else's."

Another obvious problem with this proposal is the haste with which a new municipal election law is demanded in the "people's republics." The date for elections themselves is not mentioned. Zakharchenko already held unrecognized elections in the DNR and LNR, which is why Poroshenko threatened to abolish the "Law on Special Status for the Donbass" -- but which he in fact did not abolish, and reiterated during the Munich Security Conference -- the law is still in effect.

Again, the crucial question is not only how it applies, but where -- and whether the Ukrainian ATO will be persuaded to withdraw from certain areas they believe they have already re-conquered, and visa-versa, whether Russian-backed forces will demand to keep the territories they have already grabbed.

The Interpreter has translated the document in full:

Protocol of Meeting of Trilateral Contact Group with Participation of Representatives of Certain Districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions Regarding Complex of Measures for Political Settlement of the conflict

In fulfillment of the Protocol on Results of Consultations (Minsk, Republic of Belarus, September 5, 2014, participants in the Trilateral Contact Group with representatives of Ukraine, Russia and OSCE and representatives of certain regions of Donetsk and Lugansk Regions

1. Guarantee comprehensive ceasefire from 10:00 (Kiev time) on February 12, 2015

2. Guarantee removal of heavy armaments (caliber of 100 mm and higher)

- for Ukrainian troops - from the actual line of contact of the sides
- for armed formations of certain districts of Donetsk and Lugansk Regions - from the line of contact of the sides according to the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014

For creation of a zone of safety armament systems must be withdraw from each other at a distance:

- for heavy armaments - no less than 50 km;

- multiple launch rocket systems (except for Smerch and Uragan MLRS) - no less than 70 km

Tochka, Tochka-U rocket systems and Smerch and Uragan MLRS are to be withdrawn to a distance of no less than 140 km from the actual line of contact (only for the Ukrainian Armed Forces).

The withdrawal must start no later than the second day after the ceasefire.

Military experts from the OSCE with the support of the Trilateral Contact Group must facilitate the process.

3. Pass by February 20, 2015 a Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine with an indication of a list of districts to which the special status applies in compliance with the Law of Ukraine "On Temporary Procedure for Local Self-Governance in Certain Districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions" ("On the Special Status") (within the limits of the line of contact established by the Annex to the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014).

4. By March 20, 2015, work out with representatives of the certain districts a draft Law on Ukraine on municipal elections in certain districts and begin a dialogue on issues of providing these districts the status of autonomy.

5. Guarantee effective monitoring and verification of the ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy armaments by the OSCE from the first day, with the application of all necessary technical means, including satellite, unmanned aerial vehicles [drones], radar location systems.

6. Abolish by February 23, 2015 all decisions of the political and military leadership of Ukraine on the conducting of the Armed Forces and National Guard of the Anti-Terrorist Operation in the Donbass.

7. Pass and put into effect by February 25, 2015 a Law of Ukraine forbidding the persecution and punishment of persons related to the events that took place in certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions which were under control or are under control of the armed formations of the Donbass.

8. Guarantee pardon, amnesty and exchange of all persons detained on the territory of Ukraine (all for all). This process should be completed no later than the fifth day after the withdrawal.

9. Restore the social services of certain districts of Donetsk and Lugansk Regions (payment of pensions and supports) and guarantee the safety of the access, delivery, storage and distribution of humanitarian aid for the needy on the basis of international mechanisms.

10. Restore in full the social-economic interactions of the side, including in the area of banking.

11. Remove all foreign military formations, military vehicles, and also military personnel and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine, under OSCE monitoring. Disarm all unlawful groups.

12. Conduct constitutional reform in Ukraine, including deep decentralization by means of provision of the status of autonomy to certain districts of the Donbass.

13. Organize free and honest elections of all local government bodies on the basis of a Law of Ukraine on Municipal Elections in Certain Districts and Law of Ukraine on the Special Status of Donbass with international monitoring, on the basis of agreement with representatives of certain districts of Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.

14. At a certain stage of political settlement (after the entering into force of amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine on decentralizaiton and provision of the status of autonomy of certain districts and the signing of the Act on Guarantees of Safety of Elected Persons and Institutes of Self-Governance of Donbass), in agreement with representatives of certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions to ensure extension of the work of the mission of the OSCE on portions of the border not under control of Ukraine at the present time.

15. Intensification of the work of the Trilateral Contact Group with the participation  of representatives of certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions on a permanent basis. For working sub-groups on all aspects of implementation of the present Protocol.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

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