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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 363

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.
Pro-Moscow Propagandist Reveals Russian Tanks On Debaltsevo Front Line

Graham Phillips, a notorious British propagandist who records videos for several Russian state-owned media outlets, including RT (via their Ruptly agency) and the Ministry of Defence's Zvezda channel, has posted a video report from "the front lines, by Debaltsevo."

As Phillips waffles on about the absence of a ceasefire, you can see something rather more interesting behind him:


These are Russian T-72B3 tanks.


They can be identified as such by two distinguishing features:

Firstly, their Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armour (ERA), which consists of large, angled pairs of plates around the turret.


Secondly, their Sosna-U sights:


The Sosna-U was only introduced to the T-72B series, on the B3, in 2013. 

The T-72B3 has not been exported outside Russia. These are therefore, not captured Ukrainian tanks in separatist hands, but the latest Russian tanks, likely manned by Russian troops or at least handed over to specially-trained local separatists.

This is not the first time such tanks have been filmed in Ukraine, but it is always impressive when a propagandist for the Kremlin hands us such wonderful, high quality footage.

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
'The 40th Battalion is Being Killed' Outside Debaltsevo - And a Grim Report from Mariupol

Here are some grim reports from the front line today, where the ceasefire is now a faint memory for men actually fighting to prevent further loss of Ukrainian territory:

Yury Kasyanov,  a respected volunteer who organized the Armiya-SOS group to supply the troops via civilian donations has written on his Facebook (translation by The Interpreter):

Ceasefire. The country is rejoicing. The people are full of optimism. Klimkin [Ukrainien Foreign Minister] is a great guy. Kuchma [former president] is a great guy. The president is the main great guy. Oh, how triumphantly and persuasively the order for the ceasefire was given by the General Staff! How beautiful it all was; and how well they looked in their uniforms...And the President spoke in English. And the cannons were silent and silence ensued. And a typical peaceful Sunday began...You can relax, rest from work, forget about the war...

All along the line of contact there are battles. In some places they are sitting in dug-outs, in some places they are fending of firing from entrenched enemies, and somewhere they are mourning the dead. There are a lot of dead. On the outskirts of Debaltsevo, the 40th Battalion is being killed, in local encirclement, with its ammunition running out. The columns with the wounded coming out of Debaltsevo is being killed; the columns breaking out of Debaltsevo are being killed - with ammunition...Luganskoye, Popasnya, Shirokino, Schastye are being fired on now with Grads...

The pseudo-peace is in full swing. Slant-eyed Buryat militia have made themselves at home in Vergulyovka, Uglegorsk, Kalinovo...Thousands of tons of ammunition are crossing our border in convoys. The surrounding of our forces west of Luganskoye is being prepared; strikes on Lisichansk, on Berdyansk are possible. Our group is courageously being killed in Debaltsevo, doomed to destruction by the new Minsk agreements.

Sunday. Beautiful weather. You can relax after the work week. Forget about the war. And you're all great guys.

Donbass Battalion Commander Semyon Semyonchenko also has a grim report from Mariupol on his Facebook page.

The Interpreter has a translation, with explanations in brackets:

Outside of Mariupol, a Donbass company was stupidly led into an ambush (a checkpoint) of terrorists. According to preliminary information, the guide "mixed up the turn." As a result there was a battle and two 200s [killed] -- Tsar and Usach. Three were wounded -- Vodila, Mikhaylych, Aver.

Usach came out of the Ilovaisk kettle [in August 2014], destroyed an enemy's armor with a grenade launcher and the rest of the guys were hard-core -- "the old guard," not like the bastards wending their ways through Kiev bars and press conferences, wearing the chevrons of volunteer battalions and in fact little distinguishable from the scum of the DNR-LNR. The guys mobilized several days ago, and out of the reservists became soldiers...

Why the hell were the Donbass divisions spread over two regions and three lines; after all, we needed them so outside of Debaltsevo for all these days?

Why the hell were they sent with light weapons towards dangerous tank lines?

Why the hell were they given a guide who should be doing time for several criminal offenses?

Why the hell are they ignoring all the reports of information provocations, attempts to divide the battalion all these months? Why are the perpetrators not punished?

Why the hell do they give orders directly to the divisions, bypassing the commander of the battalion?


I have a lot of these "why the hell" questions. And not only me. And there are too many coincidences in the last two weeks. Against Debaltsevo and against Mariupol. And against the guys and me and Isya Munayev [Chechen commander fighting on side of Ukraine, killed earlier this month]. Thank you, we have made our conclusions.

Now is not the time and place. Just pray for Usach and Tarya. In that way, using their call signs. And those who were wounded but who remain alive in that meat-grinder. When I get from Debaltsevo to the hospital, I'll add some photos.

Good bye, guys, eternal memory to you.
We will not leave or betray Ukraine while we are alive.

PS Svyatoslav, traumatic amputation of the arm. F**k!!!!!!!!!!

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Commander Confirms Ultimatum; Reports of Attack on His Position

Nikolai Kolesnkik of Krivoy Rog, advisor to Dnepropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoyskiy and patron of the 40th Battalion known as "Kryvbas," has just reported half an hour ago on his Facebook page (translation by The Interpreter), citing Yury Sinkovsky, deputy commander of the 40th Battalion:

Seleznyov, advisor to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (just now) confirmed about the tanks, about the ultimatum, and about what Yury Sinkovsky and I have been yelling about for the whole day. Let's not report up the chain, it's already known, and evacuate the wounded, and help the personnel, we need ammunition. Let's go faster, all your roads are "unblocked," after all, everything is under control, and the flag will be over the fortress in a day.

Kolesnik is showing some skepticism about the roads being unblocked.

Note: Kolesnik is frequently reported erroneously to be the "commander of the 40th battalion." But as he himself has explained in a January 25th Facebook post which we reported, he is not a military commander, but a patron of the battalion who has helped to supply it and is also an advisor to the governor. This local press report in about the ultimatum correctly identifies him.

Now there are also reports that the 40th Battalion's position is being attacked, from

Ukraine claimed yesterday and early today that they had control of at least some of the roads.

This is being disputed now after battles throughout the day.

There are also reports of Russian tanks used in the battle for Debaltsevo:

Translation: LifeNews has outed the 136th Separate Motorized Brigade in Debaltsevo.

The tank shows a symbol that has been tracked from Russia into Ukraine on some armor by InformNapalm.

We're a long ways now from the ceasefire soccer shown eight hours ago.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Commander Reports Ultimatum from Russian-Backed Separatists as They Fire on Ukrainian Positions
Ukrainian troops have been issued an ultimatum to lay down their arms by 23:00 Kiev time -- which is half an hour from now.

Nikolai Kolesnik of Krivoy Rog, commander of the 40th "Kryvbas" Battalion, said on his Facebook page that separatists were shelling three Ukrainian positions including the 40th battalion with mortars and giving him an ultimatum (translation by The Interpreter):

There is firing, movement of tanks, those that are standing all have engines turned on, the enemy's infantry is moving around the town freely. They are making an ultimatum to leave our positions at a certain time.

In a subsequent post he said he had a phone call from an official reprimanding him for reporting news, and also let it be known in no uncertain terms what commanders like him on the front line think of any repeat of the battle of Ilovaisk: "If they propose a 'humanitarian corridor' it will be f**king deja vu."

Earlier today there were reports of text-messages send out randomly to be picked up by Ukrainian soldiers that got some amplification from a Western reporter:

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ceasefire Violated Around Debaltsevo; OSCE Now Blocked from Monitoring the Area by DNR

On the first day of the ceasefire that went into effect at midnight February 15 Kiev time (GMT+2), there are a number of reports of violations and continued fighting particularly around Debaltsevo.

But OSCE is blocked from monitoring the area, which is also very dangerous for journalists.

OSCE has given a press conference, covered by the Russian state video service Ruptly:

Ukrainian forces appear to maintain positions around Debaltsevo.

Some reporting has focused on efforts by ambulances to go in and pick up wounded soldiers, and then themselves reportedly coming under fire.

There are unconfirmed reports of 13 killed in the shelling of ambulances.

 Translation: 3 Debaltsevo managed to take out 40 wounded soldiers.

Max Avdeyev, a Russian photographer, is one of the few journalists in the area. He posted some photos to Instagram in the last few hours, saying that he hear shell fire coming from both sides.

An hour ago, he posted this photo, saying, "It wasn't easy to make a landscape without a dead body."


Cell phones seem to be working, but there isn't any other activity on Instagram from Debaltsevo except these two photos, the first at  6:57 am labelled "outside Debaltsevo" showing some Ukrainian soldiers playing soccer:


And another from showing Ukrainian soldiers on a tank at 2:46 pm "outside Debaltsevo":

These locations are not verified.

Meanwhile, other footage has been obtained of the Ukrainians' soccer game:

The broadcasting of the soccer game was evidently meant to convey a sense of high morale with control of the road to Debaltsevo.

But there was a blow to this morale with the loss of a mascot: