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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 478

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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian POW Retracts Statement Made Under Torture and Threats by Russian-Backed Separatists

A Ukrainian POW who appeared to give testimony against the Ukrainian army at a Russian-backed separatist press conference June 5 now says his statements were given after torture and threats made against himself and his family.

Roman Mashchenko (his last name was given incorrectly previously as "Marchenko") appeared today at a press conference in Kramatorsk organized by the Ukrainian ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation].

The bruises on his face were now more visible in photos taken by the ATO than they had been in a video made by Russian state media service Ruptly.



Last week while in separatist custody, Mashchenko had 
stated at a press conference in the DNR office that Ukrainian forces attempted to circumnavigate separatist checkpoints but were defeated by DNR fighters.

This was in line with the separatist claim that Ukraine attacked, rather than separatists, in last week's battle in Marinka, and the separatists' blaming of Ukraine for violation of the Minsk accords, despite evidence to the contrary. He also claimed that around 200 Ukrainian troops were killed, which was later contradicted by Ukrainian government reports of 5 soldiers at the time.

As Novaya Gazeta reported, Mashchenko made the following statement after he was released in Kramatorsk, a Ukrainian-held city (translation by The Interpreter):

"The information stated by me for the cameras of propagandistic Russian journalists in Donetsk was pronounced by me under threat of death. After two interrogations, beatings, threats against my family and a pistol put to my temple, I said what they wanted me to."

Mashchenko said the journalists gave him questions prepared in advance, and he answered them as the separatists forced him to.

DNR defense minister Eduard Basurin denied that Mashchenko was tortured or pressured, Novaya Gazeta reported.

Mashchenko, a soldier of the 28th Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, was exchanged for the dead bodies of three separatists on June 8.

As we reported, the OSCE confirmed that the assault on June 3 was begun by the separatists. Ultimately a total of 34 people were killed on both sides and 180 people wounded, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian-Backed Separatists Withdraw Proposed Amendments Containing Mention of Crimea

 If this story sounded too good to be true - "The Pro-Russian Separatist Regions Just Named Crimea as Part of Ukraine" -- it's because it was.

The leaders of the self-proclaimed "People's Republic" have recalled their statements.

As we reported yesterday, the Russian-backed separatists did publish a document which contained their proposed additions and amendments to the Ukrainian constitution. The separatists did appear to acknowledge formally in this document not only the "separate areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions," but the Autonomous Republic of Crimea as integral parts of Ukraine.

But as we cautioned:

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.

Not surprisingly, today the separatists withdrew their statements, TASS reported.

Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deyny, representatives of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR) and "Lugansk People's Republic" (LNR) respectively, issued a clarification (translation by The Interpreter):

But today's political realities are such that the status of the DNR and LNR must be determined within the framework of the Minsk agreements. We want to emphasize that these agreements are supported by our ally, Russia. According to these agreements, it is necessary to determine the status of the Donbasss precisely through amendments to the constitution of Ukraine. But in the Ukrainian Constitution there is an article about the Crimea. Therefore in our proposed drafts to specific articles of the current constitution of Ukraine, the Crimea is mentioned strictly in a technical and legal sense. This mention does not have any substantive weight. For the simple reason that the Crimea is not and cannot be the subject of the Minsk talks.

The substance of our proposals is in the reinforcement of the special rights of the DNR and LNR but not in side phrases of the existing laws of Ukraine which we do not recognize.

But since Ukrainian propaganda is trying to blow up out of these insignificant formalities some sort of political event, we once again officially state that the DNR and LNR consider Crimea and Sevastopol as an integral part of Russia. And to avoid any further speculations on this topic we recall those draft amendments to the constitution which we proposed in which Crimea and Sevastopol are mentioned. The drafts of the rest of the amendments we propose to Ukraine to accept without delay.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
New Poll Shows Russians Support Putin's Foreign Policy But the West Hesitant To Stand Up To Russia
We've been looking at the Pew Research Poll released today which covers issues regarding Russia and Ukraine, as well as NATO. We've already discussed one important part of the poll below:

Ukraine was not the only country polled, however. NATO countries were also asked their opinion on the conflict, and the findings are clear -- a large number believe Russia is a military threat which is ultimately responsible for this conflict:

A median of 39% among NATO publics say Russia is the main culprit in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. The pro-Russian separatists in Luhans’k and Donets’k (18%) are a distant second. Half say Russia is a major military threat to other neighboring nations. In response to the crisis, 70% among allied countries say Western countries should send economic aid to Ukraine. A majority (57%) also supports Ukraine becoming a member of NATO.

NATO Countries Support Ukraine, But Do They Support NATO?

Curiously, while a median number of 41% support NATO arming Ukraine, and more than half of respondents support Ukraine joining NATO, a large amount of respondents don't believe that NATO countries should use force to defend other NATO allies who may be attacked by Russia -- which will be alarming to some, as a key provision in NATO's charter is that an attack on one NATO country should be treated as an attack on all NATO countries.

Americans and Canadians are the only publics where more than half think their country should use military action if Russia attacks a fellow NATO member (56% and 53%, respectively). Germans (58%) are the most likely to say their country should not. All NATO member publics are more likely to think the United States will come to an ally’s defense (median of 68%) than to be willing to do so themselves.


Looking closer at these numbers we see that there is still a hesitancy to increase support of Ukraine to to apply more pressure on Russia.

Few believe NATO should send military assistance to the Ukrainian government. Support for this measure is particularly low among Germans (19%), Italians (22%) and Spanish (25%). And, with the exception of Poles, three-in-ten or fewer want to increase sanctions on Russia. Still, most publics want to keep sanctions at their current level (median of 49%), rather than decrease them (15%).


Putin Has Popular Support

Conversely, more than half of Russians surveyed believe NATO is a military threat, and despite sanctions, the damaged ruble, and the rising human and financial costs of Russia's intervention in Ukraine, respondents shows strong, and even growing, support for Putin:

Only 12% of Russians give NATO a positive rating. And Russians’ favorable views of the U.S. and the European Union have plummeted by more than 30 percentage points since 2013, before the beginning of the crisis. Half of Russians say NATO is a major military threat to their nation. And Russians overwhelmingly oppose Ukraine becoming a member of either NATO (83% oppose) or the EU (68%).

At the same time, President Vladimir Putin’s image at home continues to improve amid the conflict. Overwhelming majorities in Russia approve of Putin’s performance on a range of domestic and international issues. This support holds despite the fact that Russians are less happy about the country’s current economic situation than in 2014 and are now more likely to say that Putin’s actions in Ukraine are tarnishing Russia’s image worldwide. Russian nationalism is also at an all-time high – 63% have a very favorable image of their own country, up 34 percentage points since 2013 and up 12 points in just the past 12 months. In addition, 69% of Russians say it is a bad thing that the Soviet Union dissolved, and 61% agree that parts of other countries really belong to Russia.


That doesn't bode well to the theory that Western sanctions against Russia will change Putin's aggressive and expansionist policies. Also, despite the fact that about half of Ukrainians want to see a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis, this poll raises the question of whether Russians would line up behind Putin if he decided to walk back Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

Problems Growing In Ukraine

Almost everyone in Ukraine describes the economy as "bad" or "very bad," according to Pew (they're right). Those numbers are similar to 2014's poll. But the government in Kiev is starting to lose some support:

Only about a third (32%) thinks the government in Kyiv is having a good impact on the nation. Nearly six-in-ten (59%) say the central government is having a negative influence. Positive views of Kyiv have dropped 15 percentage points in the past 12 months.


Ukrainians give both their president and prime minister negative marks. A plurality disapproves of President Petro Poroshenko’s job performance (43%), while just a third approves. A majority (60%) is unhappy with the way Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is handling his job. Roughly half or more of eastern Ukrainians give Poroshenko (49%) and Yatsenyuk (66%) negative reviews. Western Ukrainians also give Yatsenyuk bad marks (55%) but are divided on Poroshenko (39% approve, 39% disapprove).

Russia Cares More About Ukraine Than Europe Does

Our analysis -- the Pew Poll clearly illustrates the key problems with this crisis:

- The argument pushed by Russia and its proxies that eastern Ukraine wants to be independent from Kiev has zero basis in reality -- this is a conflict which Russia manufactured.

- The Ukrainian people are divided on how to solve the crisis.

- NATO countries are hesitant to apply additional pressure to Russia.

- Russians, on the other hand, are clear in their beliefs -- they think NATO is an existential military threat, they strongly oppose Ukraine joining the EU or NATO, and they blame the West for the crisis. They also support Putin, particularly his foreign policy, despite the economic problems which are growing.

In other words, if the West's current policies have not eroded the Russian peoples' support for Putin, and if there is a hesitancy in the West to apply more pressure to Russia, then there is no reason to believe that Putin will be dissuaded from continuing to pursue the policies which he has pursued for the last year.

Read the entire poll here.

NATO Publics Blame Russia for Ukrainian Crisis, but Reluctant to Provide Military Aid

In Russia, Anti-Western Views and Support for Putin Surge Publics of key member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) blame Russia for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Many also see Russia as a military threat to other neighboring states. But few support sending arms to Ukraine.

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Jun 10, 2015 19:54 (GMT)
-- James Miller