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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 486

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.
Tornado Battalion Members Shoot Down Police Drone; Deputy Commander Claims Arrests Part of Prosecutor's Cover-up
Renegade policemen from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's Tornado Batallion barricaded on their base at a former school in Lugansk Region have shot down an Interior Ministry drone, RIA Novosti and other regional media reported.

Translation: Media: Tornado fighters shot down Ukrainian Interior Ministry drone.

The Ukrainian police had launched a drone to "monitor the situation," said

Troops are being sent to the area, and Interior Ministry officials are attempting to negotiate with the Tornado members.
Translation: Tornado Battalion fighters are prepared to lay down their arms, they are reconciled.

As we reported earlier, 170 policemen from the Tornado company have been described as "occupying a school" in Severodonetsk in Lugansk Region and refused to leave, following an order by Interior Minister Aven Avakov to disband their unit after the arrests of their commander and 7 others for a number of violent crimes.

Later reports indicate that the Tornado fighters were essentially occupying their own base which they refused to leave.

They said they were prepared to put down their arms, however, according to a Tornado member who spoke on Ukraine's Channel 5 TV.

Evidently, the fighters believe they have not received enough appreciation given that they have fought at the front and believe their training and experience should be used, instead of dismissing them. reports that Nikolai Tsurkur, deputy commander of Tornado, denied that the base was deliberately mined. He said as an army base, it normally has such defense as well as military patrols.

The base, a former school building, has been used by the battalion for some time.

Tsurkur says the arrests of his battalion's men are related to the fact that they seized a train of contraband (translation by The Interpreter):

"The minister's order about our disbanding came because on June 16, we detained a train car that was traveling from Alchevks to Dnepropetrovsk. In the 20 cars, the iron alone was worth more than 17 million hryvnias. There was one closed car in this train in which, according to the documents, militarized guards were supposed to be found.

We didn't find any guards, but we found nine TNT blocks. We summoned the border guards who came, photographed it, and left. The SBU only came in the morning. They also took some photographs and then left. All night, our battalion commander Ruslan Onishchenko received threats and orders but he sent everybody far away for good. In the morning, he was kidnapped and then we realized he was arrested."

Tsukur said Onishchenko was arrested despite the fact that he was receiving treatment for wounds.

"Even thought he was undergoing treatment after a contusion, and he underwent several operations. According to our information, he is now in the ICU. He was beaten nearly to death. Last night in the same way they took 9 people. And in the morning, there were already 12 arrested. Now two have been released. Those two were beaten, and their personal belongs taken. They were secretly brought to Kharkiv and then from Kharkiv to Severodonetsk, and one made it to Dnepropetrovsk."

Tsurkur claims that the prosecutor is making the arrests because Tornado is preventing him from covering up for smuggling operations from territories occupied by the Russian-backed separatists.

"I met with the main military prosecutor Valery Matios. He asked to quietly conduct a search and take certain documents. But these certain documents in fact were the papers for that train that we stopped. And documents for 40-50 other trains. The originals of these documents are at the base now, and I will not give them up. I planned to give everything to Valentin Nalivaychenko, who was the first to announce that the main prosecutor's office was 'cover' for the contraband. And now I don't know at all to whom I should give them. The prosecutor opened all the cases against us after we uncovered the facts of the contraband.

I heard the statement that they plan to shoot at us. For what? We are all at the base with arms and have not moved anywhere. On what basis would they open fire on us? The fact that we didn't die at the front doesn't mean we were bad."

The story is reminiscent of police corruption cases in Ukraine in the 1990s. It is difficult to know at this point which side is telling the truth, but the Ukrainian media has been active in covering both sides of the scandal.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
170 Soldiers from Ukraine's Tornado Company Barricaded in School, Threatening to Shoot after Order to Disband

About 170 soldiers from the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's Tornado company have barricaded themselves in a school in Lugansk and are threatening to shoot, Ukrainska Pravda reported at 16:09 Kiev time, citing the main military prosecutor Anatoly Matios.

The soldiers are reacting to an order signed yesterday by Interior Minister Aven Avakov to dismantle the Interior Ministry's Tornado company. Avakov sent a deputy minister, department heads and public security officers and National Guard soldiers to Severodonetsk "to ensure the safe disarmament of these persons."

As Matios stated (translation by The Interpreter):

"These 170 people, of whom 100 are officially registered in the police now and about 70 of whom are unknown persons are armed and are on the grounds of the base. There is an enormous collection of arms there, and also ammunition. Last night after the decree yesterday to send an investigative operations group, officers of the tornado police company, commanded by Nikolai Tsukur, mined the perimeter of the base, set up combat locations, automatic grenade launches in certain places, and essentially blocked the approach to this base. The means of transport are mined, and in the event of decisive actions, or an approach of the investigation group to the base, they said they would shoot.
At this point, the demand of the head of the Lugansk Region Interior Ministry to disband the group has been announced through a megaphone with recording by videocamera. They refused to do this. They are thus committing a crime.

I think we are obliged, I hope, with the support of the Interior Ministry in this area, in accordance with the demands of the law to unfailingly disarm this group - the police company that has broken away from subordination and is not fulfilling orders."

He said that in the event of armed resistance, they would be forced to use arms.

Matios also noted that "a significant number of the Tornado police officers were convicted criminals in the past, and some repeatedly."

Tornado commander Onishchenko was previous convicted five times of violent offenses, including attempted rape, hooliganism and theft, he said.

Ukrainian authorities are investigating Tornado for stopping and robbing trains in May and early June and for other unrelated offenses in March.

As reported, Onishchenko and 7 others were arrested yesterday after the disbandment order was issued.

According to Ukrainksa Pravda, Matius said they are charged with offenses including for the following offenses against a male which they themselves videotaped: exceeding official powers, torture, attempted murder, unlawful imprisonment, and sexual assault. The victim is under police protection and is providing testimony, and medical forensics have been done. About 10 other similar cases were also recorded from March to April. said Avakov stated yesterday:

"The internal investigation headed by the chief of the department for internal security has alreayd begun...Each [policeman] will have a personal interview, and there will be a charge or not, and some will continue their service further, and some not, some will be prosecuted, and some not."

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
OSCE Spots Equipment Staging Near Rail Line Near Key Base Of The Russian Hybrid Army
As we reported below, Michael Bociurkiw, the spokesperson for the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) has given a press conference today about the situation in eastern Ukraine. Amidst his reports of various battles from Mariupol to Donetsk to Lugansk, this tweet is particularly noteworthy, though for reasons which may not be immediately obvious:

Komsomolske is a town about 40 kilometers south-southeast of Donetsk and about 70 kilometers northeast of Mariupol. This places it about 20 kilometers behind the front lines of fighting near the strategic towns of Granitnoye, Starognatovka and Novolaspa, all of which lie at key loactions east of Volonvakha, highly strategically important town on the highway between Mariupol and Donetsk (map).

2015-06-18 15:38:00
Komsomolske is also less than two kilometers  south of Petrovskoye, an area where the OSCE spotted a military camp containing armored vehicles carrying Russian Federation license plates and fighters who were wearing emblems of the Russian military. Komsomolske is also just six kilometers north-northeast of the town of  Razdolnoye (Rozdolne), the site of a large military base being constructed by Russian fighters which The Interpreter has uncovered in a recently-published investigation:

Meet The Russian Fighters Building A Base Between Mariupol And Donetsk

By now a large body of evidence has been accumulated which proves that Russia is supplying both equipment and soldiers from its military to the Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. Last year, the initial focus was on the weapons such as tanks and anti-aircraft missiles which were showing up in separatist-controlled [...]

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Jun 18, 2015 17:32 (GMT)

The question the OSCE does not answer -- is the equipment being unloaded from the trains to be deployed to the front lines here, or is the equipment being redeployed from the bases in this area to another front somewhere else in Ukraine?

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
The Battle For Marinka 'Reminiscent of Donetsk Airport'

A fighter named Evgeniy Gorinov reported on the battle in Marinka last night on his Facebook page (translation by The Interpreter):

The battle ended close to morning. Our positions were shelled by 120-mm mortar launchers. Infantry also tried to break through, but this was likely reconnaissance by battle (they would shoot a little bit, then retreat, and did this about three times). They also pounded our positions with machine guns, but our snipers were working efficiently! ) There are 2 injured in our division, both were struck by shrapnel. They will live. ++

Michael Bociurkiw, the spokesperson for the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission (SMM), has given a press conference today. We did not see his report, but the Twitter account for the SMM has highlighted the key points. The tweets did not specifically address the fighting in Marinka which has taken place since yesterday, but they provide a wider context:

The Russian-backed separatist side continues to portray its offenses as defenses:

Translation: The Pyatnashka international brigade is maintaining defense from the Ukrainian occupiers in the area of Marinka.

The video is dated July 17.

Translation: the situation near Marinka is increasingly reminiscent of the Donetsk Airport - Tymchuk.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, James Miller

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Three Ukrainian Soldiers Killed In Last 24 Hours
Last night we reported that there was significant fighting in Marinka. Both Ukrainian and separatist media reported that an attack had been launched on the city by Russian-backed fighters starting at around 23:00 local time:

24 Today, citing and the headquarters of the Ukrainian ATO (Anti-Terror Operation), reports on the latest briefing by the Ukrainian military:

"Over the past day, Russian mercenaries opened fire at the Ukrainian army positions along the demarcation line for 79 times, using all weapons available. In particular, Minsk-banned artillery of 120 mm, 122 mm, and 152 mm caliber, as well as Grad MLRSes were used," the message reads. 

"Near Donetsk, terrorists shelled Ukrainian positions near Khimik, Krasnohorivka, and Marinka with 120-mm mortars. Troitske at Artemivsk direction was shelled twice with howitzers of 152-mm caliber. In the same sector, illegal armed gangs fired at Novhorodske and Nelipivka with mortars of various calibers," the HQ informed.  

RFE/RL writes that Ukrainian military spokesperson Andriy Lysenko told journalists at his latest briefing that three Ukrainian servicemen have been killed in the last 24 hours:

The Ukrainian military says three of its soldiers have been killed and 14 wounded in fighting in the country’s east.

Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said on June 18 that the casualties occurred during the previous 24 hours.

"Clashes aren't getting any less frequent and in certain parts they are turning into full-scale military operations," he added.

LiveUAMap tries to place the fighting near Marinka into some context:

The NSDC's map of the situation as of this morning:


-- James Miller