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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 373

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
Russian-backed Separatists Make Partial Pull-Back; JCCC Cannot Confirm Withdrawal; OSCE Monitors Hear Shelling
We have been watching to see how the Minsk-2 agreement for both sides to pull back heavy artillery has been going.

Today, as we have reported, Russian tanks were reported to shell Shirokino, near Mariupol in the south of Ukraine on the Azov sea, and there were also reports of shelling of Popasnaya.

A number of headlines in recent days have reiterated the Russian-backed separatists claims that they were moving their heavy artillery back from the line of contact per the agreement.

But Ukraine has disputed this, AP reports:

Eduard Basurin, a top rebel commander in the Donetsk region, said his side had begun a large-scale pullback of heavy weapons in line with the peace plan, but that could not be verified. A rebel website quoted him as saying 100 122-mm howitzers would be involved.

Associated Press reporters saw about a dozen howitzers moved from Donetsk, the largest rebel-held city, to the town of Ilovaysk 12 miles to the east. That would put them roughly within the 15-mile pullback criterion for weapons of that size.

Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the international team monitoring the fighting, said he couldn’t confirm any pullback until receiving monitors’ reports.

The text of the second Minsk agreement said the withdrawal should be "50 kilometers [31 miles] apart for artillery of 100mm caliber or more." That means each side has to move back 25 kilometers [15 miles] from the line of contact -- Ilovaisk, at 19 kilometers [12 miles], is not at that point -- so it is rough indeed.

Now the OSCE has spoken, but it's a mixed report that involves seeing some militants' artillery physically pulled back, yet still hearing shelling that may well come from separatist positions:

At 14:05hrs whilst in the western outskirts of “DPR”-controlled Makiivka (12km east of Donetsk), the SMM observed movement of weapons: a convoy consisting of 16 unmarked green military-type trucks and two utility vehicles was moving eastbound on the H21 road towards Makiivka centre. All of the trucks were towing howitzers (D-30 122mm). At 10:00hrs, whilst at the “DPR”-controlled T-0507 / H21 roads section (27km east of Donetsk) between “DPR”-controlled Amvrosiivka (57km south-east of Donetsk) and DPR-controlled Ilovaisk (31km east south-east of Donetsk ”), the SMM spotted a static MBT (T64). At 13:10hrs, the SMM further saw a convoy consisting of 10 unmarked military trucks each towing howitzers (152mm). The convoy was moving southbound on the T-0507 road. At 12:38hrs, the SMM observed four static MBTs (T64) located 7.5 km of the same aforementioned section (28.5km east of Donetsk).

The report also describes hearing a number of shelling incidents and "outgoing Main Battle Tank (MBT) fire:

At 11:18hrs, whilst in “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled Snizhne (74km east of Donetsk), the SMM heard one explosion, more than 10 kilometres south of its position. The SMM assessed that the sound was consistent with outgoing Main Battle Tank (MBT) fire. At 11:30hrs, whilst at the “DPR”-controlled H21-T0517 road junction (55km east of Donetsk) near government-controlled Artemivsk (77km north north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard three explosions 10 kilometres south of its location. The SMM assessed that the sound was consistent with outgoing MBT fire. At 13:31hrs, whilst at the government-controlled E40/M3 roads junction (66km north of Donetsk), the SMM heard three outgoing artillery rounds. The sound was emanating from more than 10 kilometres south-south-west of the SMM position. The SMM could not assess the weapon system involved in the incident. From 11:10 to 11:31hrs whilst in government-controlled Novoluhanske (53km north-north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard intermittent shelling. The sound of the shelling was emanating from 8 to 10 kilometres south-east of the SMM’s position. The SMM was unable to determine whether the shelling was incoming or outgoing.

Here are some of the positions on the map, marked on the February 20 map of the pro-Russian separatist blogger dragon_first_1:

Positions.jpg

There is also shelling outside the Mariupol area:

'At 10:50hrs, whilst at the centre of government-controlled Sartana (90km south of Donetsk), the SMM heard 10 to 15 incoming and outgoing bursts. The SMM assessed that the explosions were consistent with artillery or MBT fire. The sound of the bursts was emanating from 10 kilometres south-east of the SMM’s position. Between 10:15 and 10:30hrs, whist in government-controlled Lebedynske (83km south of Donetsk), the SMM heard continuous incoming and outgoing 82mm mortar fire. The sound of the shelling was coming from five kilometres east of the SMM’s position. From 11:00 to 13:30hrs in government-controlled Berdianske (95km south of Donetsk), the SMM heard continuous incoming and outgoing artillery, MBT, 82mm mortar and heavy machine gun fire. The sound of the shelling and shooting was emanating from one to five kilometres north-north-east of the SMM’s location.


Thus it appears that while there are some optics for the Western cameras from the Russian-backed separatists, and some real movement, off-stage there is still serious fighting going on for the same towns where there have long been battles as the militants attempt to wrest more territories from Ukraine's Donetsk Region beyond what has been grabbed already for the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic". Liveuamap.com shows the line today:

Live-Map-2-25.png

OSCE noted that the JCCC could not confirm the pull-back:

The Russian Colonel-General provided the SMM with copies of schedules for the gradual withdrawal of heavy weapons by the “DPR” and “LPR”, and the Ukrainian CoS provided a copy of a schedule for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. These schedules did not appear to be co-ordinated or jointly agreed. Although at least one schedule indicated a start date as early as 22 February, Ukrainian and Russian JCCC representatives admitted that they had not actually observed any withdrawal by the “DPR” or “LPR”.

At least some good news today:



-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Poland 'Intends To Send' Military Instructors To Ukraine

Reuters reports that the Polish defence minister, Bogusław Pacek, has told the news agency that Poland intends to send military instructors to train Ukrainian soldiers with, Reuters notes, "the final decision expected next month."

"The defence ministry intends to send Polish instructors to support the training of Ukrainian non-commissioned officers," Boguslaw Pacek told Reuters.

He said the number of instructors sent will be finalised in March, but will be in the range of around a dozen to several dozens.


-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Ukrainian Military Report Another Attack Near Shirokino

Novosti Donbassa reports that Zoryan Shkiryak, an adviser to the minister of internal affairs, has announced that Russian-backed forces have again attacked Ukrainian troops near Shirokino, east of Mariupol.

The Interpreter translates:

"Today, at approximately 17:00 (15:00 GMT), terrorists again attacked the ATO forces' positions near to Shirokino with tanks and mortars."

Shkiryak added that Ukrainian forces had also conducted a successful operation in the area:

"Just now, National Guard troops destroyed a large enemy ammunition depot, not far from that settlement, with precision fire."


-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Breedlove Says Ukraine Could Not Stop A Russian Advance Across Eastern Ukraine But 'We Need To Raise Russia's Costs'

Earlier (below) we reported on statements being made by NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander of U.S. European Command, General Phillip Breedlove, who is speaking to the House Armed Services Committee now. Breedlove was asked directly whether he believed that Ukraine could defend itself against the Russian military. Breedlove responded:

"I do not believe Ukrainian forces could stop a Russian advance across eastern Ukraine... even if we provide them with additional weapons."

But Breedlove did not stop there. He then suggested that what needed to happen was that Russia needed to see an increase in costs to change its calculations.

"You're talking about body bags," Breedlove was asked. On the live video feed, Breedlove was seen leaning back in his chair and smirking, before leaning toward his microphone and saying essentially agreeing, without directly calling for the shipment of weapons.

-- James Miller
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
"I don't think any of us are sure that he's [Putin] accomplished his objectives inside Ukraine"
NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander of U.S. European Command, General Phillip Breedlove, has made another series of statements today while speaking to the House Armed Services Committee to the effect that the United States and NATO cannot trust Russia to abide by international norms.
Voice of America's Jeff Seldin has been following Breedlove's statements closely:
This last claim is well supported by the facts. When Ukraine's airforce began to hammer away at the Russian-backed rebels in late spring and early summer, Russia supplied anti-aircraft missiles, including the Strela-10 and the now-infamous Buk which, evidence suggests, likely brought down MH17. When Ukraine's military offensives were winning back large amounts of territory in late summer, Russian forces effectively invaded and reversed Ukraine's momentum. Russian forces played key roles in encircling the Ukrainian military at Ilovaisk, Donetsk Airport, and Debaltsevo.
Breedlove said that the Russian military has invested in its land war capabilities, and has "smartly" invested in land and sea capabilities as well.
Here is where Breedlove's expertise in NATO comes into play. NATO nations and Russia's non-NATO European neighbors alike both believe that Russia will continue to infiltrate Ukraine in order to win strategic, economic, and political victories. But many Eastern and Central European countries are also fully aware that the dynamic between Ukraine and Russia in the leadup to this crisis is similar to the dynamic between several countries and Russia including: Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, and even Belarus.

Follow Jeff Seldin for more updates as they come in or watch a live stream of the conference here.

-- James Miller

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