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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 477

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
OSCE Spots More Armour East Of Volnovakha. Preparations For A Pincer North Of Mariupol?

The last two spot reports from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) have described significant quantities of military hardware in separatist-held territory east of Volnovakha, between Telmanovo and Starobeshevo.

This is of particular note given the recent assaults on Marinka and intensification in attacks on Granitnoye, Novolaspa and Starognatovka, as well as attacks on Ukrainian forces on the Donetsk-Mariupol highway last week.

According to the today's SMM report, based on data received as of 19:30, June 8:

In "DPR"-controlled Rozdolne [Razdolnoye] (47km south-east of Donetsk) an SMM UAV spotted a concentration of nine main battle tanks (MBTs) in a residential area, one self-propelled howitzer (2S1) and 16 armoured personnel carriers (APCs). 

While yesterday, the SMM report, based on data received as of 19:30, June 7, said:
Of particular note - amongst the weapons observed by SMM UAVs was a concentration at a railway station between the "DPR"-controlled Komsomolske [Komsomolskoye] (45km south-east of Donetsk) and Andriivka [Andreyevka] (45km south-east of Donetsk), namely seven MBTs. In the same area, the UAV spotted 35 military trucks and 25 armoured personnel carriers. Also, of note was a concentration around "DPR"-controlled Oktyabr (85km south of Donetsk), namely, three artillery pieces and two MBTs.

The sightings at the railway station south of Komsomolskoye and near Rozdolnoye are indicated by squares.

Screenshot_10.png

Furthermore, back on April 27, the OSCE reported that, over the previous three days, their UAV had

"sighted seventeen tanks, three self-propelled howitzers and 60 APCs in a “DPR”-controlled area 50 kilometres north of Shyrokyne."

As we wrote at the time, the area 50 kilometres north of Shirokino once again separatist-held territory north of Granitnoye and Telmanovo.

On May 28, the OSCE SMM had an interesting encounter in Petrovskoye (Petrivske), around 15 kilometres west of both Komsomolskoye and Razdolnoye:

In Petrivske (“DPR”-controlled, 38km south-east of Donetsk) the SMM spoke to a young man who said that the former local holiday camp was currently occupied by an unknown armed group. He could not specify for how long this armed group had been stationed in the village. In the village the SMM spoke to two women, both wearing military uniforms, with caps with Russian Federation Armed Forces insignia. They said that they were from Kramatorsk. During the conversation with the two women a vehicle with Russian Federation number plates stopped next to the OSCE vehicles and two armed men, similarly dressed, exited the car and ordered the women to stop the conversation with the SMM.  Behind a tall fence inside the holiday camp, the SMM observed one infantry fighting vehicle.

What this means is that Russian regular forces are gathering in an area of considerable strategic importance whilst attacks are escalating.

Here is a selection of recent reports of attacks in the area: 

On June 7, there were reports of shelling in Granitnoye from both residents on social media and the Ukrainian military.

According to the reports, Granitnoye was shelled with Grad MLRS while Ukrainian positions near Novolaspa were attacked by tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

On June 6, the Ukrainian military claimed that Granitnoye and Starognatovka had been shelled with Grad MLRS.

On June 5, the Ukrainian military reported that Granitnoye had been shelled the previous night with both 122 mm artillery and Grad MLRS.

Meanwhile, the attacks on Marinka have heralded a new round of attacks on the highway between Donetsk and Mariupol, with Ukrainian positions at Taramchuk and Beryozovoye coming under fire.

The reason this area, between the highway and Granitnoye, is so important is that any serious move against Mariupol, the economic powerhouse of the Donetsk region, would require a pincer strategy - cutting off the Ukrainian supply road from the north by taking Volnovakha.

To the south of Granitnoye, Ukrainian positions are somewhat protected from assault by the Pavlopol reservoir, but the stretch of land between the highway and Granitnoye is open and vulnerable to mechanised forces.

This is where Russia would launch the offensive, and the preparations for it seem to be under way.

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Pavel Gubarev Among 15 Arrested By Motorola's Battalion; Released After Drug Test

Yesterday, June 8, Pavel Gubarev, the former "people's governor" of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR), was arrested after a shooting incident, and then released.


Translation: Pavel Gubarev detained for shooting from a sniper's rifle in Donetsk.
Translation: Pasha Gubarev has screwed up??!!

LifeNews reported that Gubarev was detained along with 15 people after unknown persons, apparently from the DNR forces, opened fire from the SkyCity empty office building, evidently from an SVD [Dragunov snipers' rifle]. Agents from the DNR's Ministry of State Security (MNB) went to the scene and closed off Artyom street and surrounded the building, then dragged out the suspects and threw them to the ground. They reportedly were able only to find a pistol.




Ukrainian press had a different version of the story.

Translation: Motorola's group seized the DNR Communications Ministry and Gubarev - Interior Ministry

Vyacheslav Abroskin, head of the Donetsk branch of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, told 62.ua that "the DNR's Ministry of Communications was seized" reportedly by fighters from Motorola's brigade with the help of armored vehicles. Motorola, the call sign of Arseny Pavlov, is the commander of the Spartak Battalion and among the most popular of the separatists. The ministry's  office is located in the SkyCity business center. Motorola was quoted as saying that 15 fighters were sent "to the republic's drug clinic" for testing and that they were "drug addicts."

62.ua reported Gubarev as saying:

"The incident with the surrounding of the SkyCity building took place, but I had nothing to do with it. I am home now, everything is fine with me. As for the rest, I believe the investigation should get to the bottom of this situation,"

This latest affair was seen as another indication that the "Novorossiya" cause was being wound up by Russia and even its proxies in Donetsk. Yet Gubarev, once the "people's governor" of Donetsk and the main hero of the DNR has been far less visible since his resignation in September and less active since an alleged assassination attempt on him last October when his car was shot near the Russian border. His arrest among 15 people in what may have been infighting among the DNR fighters or a party gone out of control doesn't necessarily signify a "hit" has been made on  him.

Even when the assassination attempt was said to be made on him, there was speculation that the incident wasn't war-related but some internal dispute. He didn't suffer any gunshot wounds  but was hospitalized with traumatic brain injury, then recovered and resumed campaigning for the Novorossiya cause on talk shows, and helping his wife Yekaterina Gubareva, one of the main fund-raisers for "Novorossiya."

Gubarev was briefly kidnapped -- and quickly released -- by Chechens earlier this year, which shed light on the fact that Krasnodon had been taken over by Chechen fighters -- and Gubarev was still relevant enough to kidnap.

Russian-backed fighters continue to use the Novorossiya flag and insignia and proclaim its ideals as we can see from a recent convoy May 29 moving into  position for what turned out to be the June 3 offensive. There are many other recent instances of the flag and rhetoric. The leadership of the DNR and LNR may be forced into some seeming compromise as their recent statements indicate but they continue to take over Ukrainian territory and kill Ukrainians.

-- 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
Shelling Reported In Donetsk

There are reports of shelling in western Donetsk this evening.

Translation: uuuu it's smoking. north-west. #Donetsk

Translation: Again something is burning in the city centre 19:05

Some reports are placing the fires in the Tekstilshchik area, in the south-west, nearer to the front line with Marinka, while others claim it is in the Grabari area, closer to the city centre, in the Kuybyshevsky district.

There are also reports of strikes on Isakova street, north of Aleksandrovka, right on the edge of separatist-held territory: 


Translation: #Donetsk Isakova street. Incoming. No casualties.

Meanwhile, Donetsk news site 62.ua reports shells striking residential areas in the city's north, just south of the ruined airport.

According to the report, shells struck the following sites:

150609-donetsk-map.png

-- Pierre Vaux

 

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Separatists Publish Proposed Amendments To Ukrainian Constitution; All Sticking Points Remain

Last night the Russian-backed separatist leadership published a document which contained their proposed additions and amendments to the Ukrainian constitution. In the document, the separatists acknowledge not only the 'separate areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions,' but the Autonomous Republic of Crimea as integral parts of Ukraine.

While this may be seen as a move of acquiescence towards Kiev, it is in fact undermined by both the reality of the situation in the Donbass and other proposed amendments in the document.

Most important of all is that the local elections which must be held in the occupied territories as part of the 'Special Status' law passed by Ukraine in accordance with the Minsk agreements, are, Kiev says, only to be conducted once the Ukraine has full control over its borders, another point of the Minsk text.

There is no sign whatsoever that this is going to happen any time soon. The Russian-backed forces are not even allowing OSCE monitors to inspect most of the border, across which Russian troops and armour move freely. With such a state of affairs, the disputes between the separatists and Kiev on the manner in which the elections are to be held are moot.

Key sticking points in the separatists' proposals, that were evident when their representatives first submitted the draft document to the tripartite Contact Group on May 13, are still present.


These include the separatists' insistence that Ukraine be constitutionally obliged to pursue a 'non-aligned' status internationally, barring Ukraine from applying for EU or NATO membership.

The Ukrainian government has made it clear that it considers membership of both groups to be key foreign policy goals.

The proposals published last night also retain the demand for "people's militia," the leadership of which is to be appointed by the local government, who would remain in their posts according to the text.

This document therefore offers nothing but pro forma adherence to the Minsk agreements.

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Assessing The Russian Strategy In Eastern Ukraine

On June 3 the Russian-backed fighters in eastern Ukraine launched a major attack against Marinka, southwest of Donetsk. The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, did not bury the U.S. assessment -- she said that the Russian Federation and its "separatist allies" had launched a joint attack west of the Minsk demarcation line at Marinka and Krasnohorivka, and then their own contradictory statements undercut their narrative that Ukraine started the fight. 

Over the last week we have made several attempts to explain the strategic importance of this battle and the escalating campaign in eastern Ukraine, but each day new fighting occurs across the front. The question, then, is how well the trends and models are holding up in light of new evidence and developments on the ground.  

In our initial assessment, we noted that when the battles are mapped, a pattern emerges:

The capture of Marinka, southwest of Donetsk, would advance the goals of the Russian-backed fighters in several ways. The first and most obvious is that it would help secure Donetsk. The second, though, is that it would put the Russian-backed fighters one step closer to cutting off Mariupol, to the south.

But across all of the front lines -- near Mariupol, Donetsk, Gorlovka, and Schastye -- we see a similar pattern emerge. The Russian-backed fighters are advancing in what could be described as "fingers," narrow points of focus which are fairly evenly spaced. The pattern is that regular, but not constant, fighting is reported at alternating fingers on different days. This has several effects -- it tests Ukraine's lines and keeps them guessing where the next attack will come. As a result, the Russian-backed forces have been able to advance in narrow "spiky" channels, and each advance carries with it a new threat -- encirclement. As two or more neighboring fingers advance deeper into Ukrainian territory, the Ukrainian military is in danger of being trapped in a pincer between two fronts, a strategy that has proven to be highly effective in the conflict, most notably at Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo.

The theory, then, was that an assault which pushes outwards from Donetsk accomplishes two main goals -- to threaten the highway that runs to Mariupol to the south, and to possibly catch Ukrainian military positions closer to Donetsk, either north or south of the city, in a pincer. 

Two days later the Institute for the Study of War published their own assessment which closely corresponds to this theory: 

For ISW's report:

A sustained Russian-backed offensive on these frontline positions may function as component of a larger maneuver to push south along the strategic Donetsk-Mariupol highway. The maneuver around Donetsk may also be part of a coordinated tandem offensive, a signature of Russia's hybrid operations in eastern Ukraine. Russian-backed separatists may synchronize the offensive west of Donetsk with a maneuver operation around the city of Artemivsk, a gateway to Ukraine's regional military and administrative headquarters.

Yesterday, a new assessment of the fighting, written by The Interpreter's managing editor James Miller, was published in Foreign Policy:

In the days since the attack on Marinka, Russian-backed forces have launched smaller offensives north and northwest of Donetsk and from positions east of Mariupol. On June 8, the Ukrainian military reported that heavy fighting is once again raging in Marinka, and the Ukrainian military also seems increasingly concerned about attacks on the towns of Artyomovsk and Gorlovka, both north-northeast of Donetsk. Clearly, the June 3 attack on Marinka was part of a wider pattern and, presumably, a wider strategy of the separatists.

The target of this new offensive is not necessarily Marinka or Donetsk, the area of this newest wave of fighting, but the areas north and northwest of Luhansk, north and west of Gorlovka, and north and east of Mariupol. By conducting surprise attacks along the narrow corridors of the front lines, the rebels have been able to secure finger-like strips of land which, once expanded, could threaten to trap pockets of Ukrainian troops and the towns they defend in "pincers," grinding Kiev's forces like dough between fingers as they close into a fist. The separatists employed this same strategy to great effect last August in the battle for Ilovaisk and in the capture of Debaltseve in February.

Just in the last several days we see more evidence that Artyomovsk and Gorlovka are focal points for Russian-allied fighters:

We also carried a report on fighting at Svetlodarsk, northeast of Gorlovka and southeast of Artyomovsk, near an important reservoir. In order to advance further toward Artyomovsk, Russian-backed forces would have to secure this area, and Ukrainian troops defending these positions are already in danger of being cut off and backed up against the water:

Artyomovsk-and-Gorlovka-and-Svetlodarsk.

See our assessment here: 

We also see Russian-backed fighters intensifying attacks on positions north and west of Donetsk airport:
Fighting also continues to be reported along a key river crossing northwest of Lugansk:

Details from the latest OSCE reports can also be used to track trends in fighting and troop movement. Here are some excerpts from the SMM report from June 7, 19:30 Kiev time:

On 7 June, while at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in the vicinity of government-controlled Marinka (23km west, south-west of Donetsk), the SMM heard and saw SALW fire (7-10 single shots and at least 3-4 bursts) incoming from a north-easterly direction and impacting 3-5m next to SMM vehicles in sand bags and concrete blocks. The soldiers laid down for cover. The SMM immediately left the scene. No injuries or damage were reported.

An SMM UAV spotted a concentration of 40 military-type trucks in Petrovskyi district (“DPR”-controlled, 20km south-west of Donetsk city centre).

The  Petrovskyi district played a key role on the Russian-backed assault on Marinka on June 3. The Interpreter's editor-in-chief Michael Weiss wrote in The Daily Beast:

The two main towns hit today were Marinka and Krasnogorovka, both not far from the major industrial city of Donetsk. The nearest separatist lines to these targets are the Petrovsky district of the city to the east, Aleksandrovka to the southeast and Novomikhailkovka to the northeast. Video footage, purportedly shot in Petrovsky today, clearly recorded the sounds of outbound artillery fire, with the attendant description of the footage claiming that the separatists were firing from positions in the immediate vicinity of residential high-rises. (Of course, firing from civilian areas doesn’t just violate Minsk II, but the Geneva Conventions.)



Can Anyone Stop Putin's New Blitz?

It looks like Vladimir Putin will spend his second summer in a row going to war. So now the question becomes: What-if anything-will the United States and Europe do in response? On Wednesday, Ukrainians awoke to the all-too-predictable news that Moscow-backed separatists-a contingent that consists of quite a lot of Moscow-dispatched Russian soldiers-launched a fresh, multi-pronged assault on Ukrainian-held territory.

View full page >
Jun 09, 2015 22:36 (GMT)

The June 7 OSCE report also carried another interesting excerpt about troop movement south of Donetsk (though, since the Ukrainian government was so blatantly attacked and said they were mobilizing their heavy weaponry in response, the lines about the Minsk agreement being broken are no longer really relevant):

Despite claims that the withdrawal of heavy weapons has been complete, the SMM observed the following weapons movements/presence in areas that are in violation of the Minsk withdrawal lines: in government-controlled areas, 14 main battle tanks (MBTs) and three artillery pieces; and, in “DPR”-controlled areas, 16 MBTs and five artillery pieces.

Of particular note – amongst the weapons observed by SMM UAVs was a concentration at a railway station between the “DPR”-controlled Komsomolske (45km south-east of Donetsk) and Andriivka (45km south-east of Donetsk), namely seven MBTs. In the same area, the UAV spotted 35 military trucks and 25 armoured personnel carriers. Also, of note was a concentration around “DPR”-controlled Oktyabr (85km south of Donetsk), namely, three artillery pieces and two MBTs.

On June 8 the OSCE saw more Russian-proxy armor southeast of Donetsk -- note how large the convoys are in this area compared to other areas where military hardware was spotted:

In “DPR”-controlled Rozdolne (47km south-east of Donetsk) an SMM UAV spotted a concentration of nine main battle tanks (MBTs) in a residential area, one self-propelled howitzer (2S1) and 16 armoured personnel carriers (APCs). Eight towed artillery guns were seen by an SMM UAV in government-controlled Paraskoviivka (27km south-west of Donetsk). In “DPR”-controlled Yakovlivka (7km north-north-east of Donetsk) the SMM UAV saw three artillery pieces set up under camouflaged nets. In other “DPR”-controlled areas the SMM UAV saw five MBTs. At another location in a government-controlled area, the SMM observed a 120mm heavy mortar.

All this armor could easily strike positions between Donetsk and Mariupol, like at Volnovakha and/or Telmanovo, which would give the Russian-backed fighters two advantages -- it would provide another angle to attack positions west of Donetsk, and it would apply even more pressure to Mariupol. Volnovakha was also highlighted by both the ISW's and The Interpreter's maps as a possible target.

In other words, the evidence-based assessments made by The Interpreter in the last weeks continue to bear fruit, even though most of the battles in eastern Ukraine are not making it to international headlines.

-- James Miller

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