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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 489

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.
Three Ukrainian Soldiers Killed, Fighting Reported On All Fronts

Once again the Ukrainian military is reporting fighting on all fronts:


AFP has posted a summary of today's briefing from the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) and from separatist leaders:

Kiev military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said two government troops died and six were wounded in shelling across swathes of the eastern separatist Donetsk province over the past day.

Lysenko told reporters that "activity had especially picked up" around the industrial Sea of Azov port of Mariupol that the rebels have been trying to seize to establish an export gateway for the steel and coal mines they now control.

Insurgency commanders said rockets launched from Kiev-held positions around the city of Donetsk had killed a civilian and wounded two others in the rebels' main stronghold.

Separatist negotiator Denis Pushilin called the reported attack "a grave violation of the Minsk agreement" that Russia and Ukraine signed during February negotiations spearheaded by the leaders of Germany and France.

EMPR, a group of Ukrainian citizen journalists, have posted additional details from the NSDC briefing. According to them, Ukraine reports that the Shirokino area, east of Mariupol, was shelled by 122-mm self-propelled ''Gvozdika'' howitzers, and enemy "reconnaissance groups" have been active between Lebedinsky and Pavlopol. In one of these recon groups, intercepted last month near Schastye in Lugansk region, Russian soldiers were leading the intelligence operations, according to the Ukrainian military which captured two Russian soldiers.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Security Chief Says Flow of Volunteer Russian Fighters to Ukraine 'Cannot be Stopped'

Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia's Security Council, said that Russian authorities cannot hinder the flow of Russian volunteers to Ukraine to fight with the so-called "militia" in the self-proclaimed "Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics," and reported.

He claimed the US had initiated the conflict in southeastern Ukraine, and repeated a well-worn trope of Russian disinformation. The Interpreter has translated excerpts from the Interview:

Kommersant: And once again, the US is behind this?

Patrushev: You have to look objectively at the events. The USA is trying to prove that Russia is a side in the conflict in Ukraine. But that's no so. In fact, the USA itself is the initiator of the conflict in Ukraine.

Kommersant: How is that?

Patrushev: You haven't caught my drift...They have initiated all these events. In one of his recent interviews, Barack Obama acknowledged this.

Kommersant: But he only said that the US was a "facilitator" during the change in government in Kiev...

Patrushev: The change in government in fact became the impulse for these events which had occurred there. Kerry has an aide [Victoria] Nuland, who published the sum of $5 billion spent on the USA in order to organize these events.

Kommersant: She said that they had spent $5 billion in support of democratic institutes and civil society.

Fact Check: The $5 billion is actually all aid given to Ukraine for 20 years, of which some component is for democracy promotion. That means aid given to the Yanukovich regime., a site that analyzes such claims explained how misleading the Russian claim is that the US "spent $5 billion on anti-government riots" and awarded the claim its "pants on fire" designation which means it is an egregious lie.

Patrushev: There was a lawfully-elected president, whether you like him or not, it's a question of appraisal, he was legally elected, and no one denies this. But he didn't suit the USA. And although his term as president was coming to an end, and the people of Ukraine would not have re-elected him, they decided to overthrow him forcibly.

This was their political mistake. If they had waited, then they could have brought in the people they needed lawfully. But they initiated a coup d'etat. If there hadn't been a coup, there wouldn't have been the events in the Crimea and the east of Ukraine.

Kommersant: But didn't the unrest in Kiev begin after Viktor Yanukovich, under pressure from Moscow, rejected the association with the European Union?

Patrushev: He postponed the signing of this agreement -- and not under Moscow's pressure. He simply realized that he hadn't sufficiently comprehended the essence of this document and didn't understand what its implementation might lead to. Ukraine is in the free-trade zone of the CIS, and the consequences of this step were simply explained to Yanukovich. He had not taken them into account before and decided to take a pause in order to figure out these issues.

To accuse Russia of how the events in Ukraine developed is to have cause and effect change places. "The wind blows because the tree is rocking." The initiators of the events in Ukraine are the USA. Through a coup, they brought to power people they control. Meanwhile, the socio-economic situation in Ukraine was worsening, so they had to think up a reason for why that was happening. In their logic, it is explained that Russia is to blame for everything. In fact, they don't care what will happen in Ukraine. They simply have to put pressure on Russia, which the USA is doing.
Kommersant: You've expressed concern about the presence of Russian volunteers in the ranks of the Islamic State [ISIS]. Why isn't the Russian government concerned about the fact that thousands of Russians head off to fight in the Donbass?

Patrushev: The Islamic State is a terrorist group, everyone acknowledges that. There are no terrorist groups on the territory of Lugansk and Donetsk regions. Everything could in fact be resolved without a civil war, if the Minsk agreements are followed. But they aren't fulfilled.

In Ukraine now, even in one family, relatives often take diametrically opposed possitions and argue. This is a civil conflict. We have been providing and continue to provide support to Ukrainian refugees who, in fact, are not accepted either in the EU or in the USR -- but to get involved in a civil conflict is not prudent.

Kommersant: But the Russian authorities are not hindering Russian Federation citizens from going to fight in the Donbass...

Patrushev: We don't draft anyone and don't encourage it. But it is impossible really to hinder this. After all, 2 million refugees from Ukraine didn't come to Russia just like that -- they have relatives and friends here. They tell them about the brutalities happening there. And emotions already kicks in -- people go there and take part [in battles--Kommersant.]

Patrushev said Russia was doing all it could to encourage the Minsk agreements but when asked why they didn't close the border through which armaments and personnel are flowing, Patrushev said:

We cannot close the border. What can we do, organized a blockade as it was in Leningrad? For the entire population of the Donbass? We're essentially feeding them now, their living conditions are extremely difficult. Although it is said in the Minsk agreements that the Ukrainians themselves must foster the normalization of the social and economic situation both in Lugansk and in Donetsk. But they aren't doing that!

Here Patrushev dodges the fact that essentially, Russia and the LNR control the border, and do not allow Ukrainian border authorities or the OSCE monitors to inspect the cargo coming in as "humanitarian convoys". OSCE can only monitor, not intercept arms, and it reports regularly of men in camouflage and armor crossing to and from Russia.

There is no objective reason why Russia couldn't stop the flow of tanks and troops and submit to border inspection; it battled to force Ukrainian border guards away from certain crossings so they could freely cross. Yet a key condition of the Minsk agreement is returning the border back to Ukrainian control, and Patrushev does not comment on this.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Militants Blow Up Bridge Near Troitskoye in Lugansk Region

Russian-backed separatists blew up a bridge in Lugansk Region last night, blocking traffic from the area, Ukrainska Pravda reported.

The web site of Governor Hennadiy Moskal reported that due to the destruction of the bridge on the outskirts of Troitskoye (near Debaltsevo), passage of traffic to the frontline village is now blocked, said Governor Hennadiy Moskal. He said (translation by The Interpreter):

On June 20, a diversionary reconnaissance group of militants blew up the concrete bridge across the Lugan River, through which humanitarian cargo was brought to Troitskoye, and also food and first aid deliveries.

There are two other bridges in the area near Mironovskoye and Kalinovaya, but the latter is occupied by forces from the self-proclaimed "Lugansk People's Republic" and it is dangerous on both bridges due to constant shelling.

Moskal added:

"Now only an all-terrain military vehicle could get across the river in the village. The regional authority is looking at the possibility of rapidly establishing an alternative crossing so as to restore Troitskoye to a safe transport connection."

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick