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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 508

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
Unconfirmed Reports of Munitions Depot Explosion in Gorlovka, 13 Dead; Conflicts Between Separatists and Russian Advisers
At about 14:30 Moscow time today in Gorlovka (Horlivka) in the area of the Kurganka housing complex, an ammunition depot exploded, Informator.lg.ua and Ostro.org reported, citing a source who requested anonymity.

The explosion supposedly occurred due to some "settling of scores" between local residents and "volunteers" who had come from Russia. Preliminary reports indicate that 13 people were killed. Yet no other media source has reported this large number of deaths.

Eyewitnesses say that explosion was so powerful that the shock waves were opening doors and blowing out glass in a radius of several kilometers. As we reported earlier today, there were reports of an explosion in the Putilovka district of Donetsk today but no more information.

According to local residents, military people arrived in Gorlovka earlier who "did not have a Slavic appearance" and who did not have any identifying insignia. Russian contract soldiers from Yakutia and other Far East regions have been cited on the battlefield in Ukraine before.

There were also reports that DNR fighters were forced by their "military mentors" from Russia to fire on civilian areas. There was also a report that DNR fighters had fired on a Russian base.

We have not seen any confirmations of these claims. Espreso TV has also reported that 13 died in an explosion, but is using the same source.

This is not the first report of friction between the Russian-backed fighters and their Russian military overlords. There were reports towards the end of the Donetsk Airport battle that Chechen fighters shot and killed a Russian officer.

Today, the commander of the Rusich diversionary group,  the Russian citizen Aleksei Milchakov, a notorious sadist, announced on his VKontakte page that he was withdrawing his men from the Donbass. The Vikings, a battalion associated with Rusich and training with them, also withdrew. Some of the posts of fighters from this group we have tracked to the training center in Razdolnoye had posts on their pages today that sounded like they were leaving.

Kitty-Valery-Grigoryevich.png

Scat, you strange kitty. You don't fall under the relocation program. Hunt, steal, go while. Well, bye.

Pro-separatist social media has also been full of bitter comments since the withdrawal from Shirokino, with the sense that the fighters have been sold out by the generals during the peace talks.

As the separatists left Shirokino, they fired back on civilian homes. They have withdrawn to Sakhanka and other positions a few kilometers away.

-- 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
Russian Neo-Nazi Paramilitary Group, Rusich, To Withdraw - Freezing Of Conflict Or A Feint?

Alexei Milchakov, an infamous Russian paramilitary leader, has announced that his Rusich assault group has withdrawn from the Donbass.

Rusich, a diversion, assault and reconnaissance group (DShRG), was originally part of a military unit in the Lugansk region, led by Aleksandr Bednov, known as Batman. 

Bednov was killed during what the separatist leadership in Lugansk called an arrest, though those close to him claim he was killed in an ambush. 

After Bednov's death, Milchakov, one of the few surviving members of the unit, re-established DShRG Rusich in the Donetsk region, and was recently documented training on the eastern banks of the River Kalmius, near Razdolnoye (Rozdolne) and Solntsevo (Sontseve).

On July 6, we noticed that Milchakov (who now uses his first name and patronymic, Yurevich, as his profile name) posted a picture of himself in a blue Russian VDV (Airborne Division) beret with a one-word comment -- "Pre-jump" -- standing by a sign that said Airborne Troops Complex. The sign had a mixture of both Soviet communist insignia on a Russian tri-color background saying "Parachute Instructor" and "Parachuter A-Student." That gave it a bit of a home-made feel so we couldn't be certain if it was an official Russian military facility or he had been recalled to Russia by Russian commanders.


Today, Milchakov posted on his VKontakte page (translated by The Interpreter): 

By my decision, DShRG Rusich has been completely withdrawn from the Donbass for regrouping and resupply. 

The group has fulfilled its tasks and obtained resources from this war. We will not go on fighting under these conditions for those whose interests are unclear.

I thank all those who helped (we have retained the group's equipment).

The next war awaits us. 

150710-rusich.jpg

A VKontakte post by E.N.O.T. Corp, an organisation that has provided both aid and fighters for the separatists, reported by the DShRG Rusich page, read:

On the order of their commander Alexei (Serb) Milchakov, DShRG Rusich has been completely withdrawn from the territory of Novorossiya. This decision is, for many reasons, inexplicable to an outside observer. The most important thing is that the group has retained their faith in victory and their desire to fight, in spite of recent events. In the future war, which draws closer with every day, sane patriotic forces will be more essential than ever. The main thing is for us all to work together. Moreover, even under the current "peaceful" conditions, ideologically-committed people, prepared to defend their Motherland, can always find work.

And to all of our enemies,  with a poor memory for history, remember that real Russian soldiers only retreat to regroup, so that the subsequent counter-attack is all the more terrible for the enemy. Everything is only just beginning, Europe must be liberated, and the overseas instigators put in their rightful place in the footnotes of history.

Rusich appeared to either be part of, or closely involved with a separatist military unit called the Vikings, deployed around Razdolnoye.

Milchakov's outfit has attracted a great deal of attention, not least due to his infamously sadistic behaviour. As a teenager, Milchakov decapitated a puppy and posted photos of his act on social media.

During the heavy fighting in the Lugansk region last summer, he and a fellow fighter from Rusich, Brazilian Rafael Lusvargy-Fernandovich, posed with the burning corpses of Ukrainian soldiers after filming their personal documents.

The unit has a clear neo-Nazi aesthetic, making use of the kovlorat symbol, which, while claimed to be of ancient Slavic origin, is clearly intended to resemble a doubled swastika.

jKZmQDWlI3k.jpg

Rusich, Lusvargy-Fernandovich and and Norwegian Yan Petrovsky have all posed with Nazi symbols or have histories in far-right organisations, and have all been tied to the Razdolnoye training area.

FdxLeTddHbA.jpg

But the group's withdrawal comes at an interesting time. While there appeared to be a slowdown in fighting earlier this week, last night and today have seen a sharp escalation in fighting. As we write this evening, shells are pounding the Ukrainian-held town of Avdeyevka, north of Donetsk.

Furthermore, the area in which Rusich was deployed has seen a major build-up of military hardware, coincident with attacks on Ukrainian positions to the west. 

Despite this, on June 7, Gennady Dubovoy, a pro-separatist war correspondent who has been among the chief propagandists of the Rusich DShRG and the Vikings Battalion, both training at the camp in Razdolnoye, wrote a special report for Segodnya.ru reposted on his blog 3 days ago on July 7 indicating a possible retreat by these units and the freezing of the conflict.

His post, titled "Novorossiya, Leaven of the Empire," reads (translated by The Interpreter):

The situation with the republics in the Donbass remains extremely complicated. On the one hand, offensive actions are practically ceased on both sides within the framework of Minsk-2, on the other hand, ordinary people continue to be killed by the shelling of the artilleries of the Ukraine Armed Forces and the villages of Donbass. Against this backdrop, officials in the Lugansk Democratic People's Republic, within the framework of the Minsk agreements, is unilaterally releasing Ukrainian POWs, leaving the village of Shirokino, turning over control over it to the OSCE representatives (everyone knows in whose favour this organization is working), scheduling local elections in the DNR and LNR, referring to the Constitution of Ukraine. Some observers have began to assess these actions as "active prodding of the republics into Ukraine."

And how do those who have fought and are fighting assess what is going on?

Dubovoy leaves out, as usual, the continued shelling by the combined Russian and separatist forces as we've reported today again; the fact that the OSCE is under a Serb chair -- an ally of Russia -- and yet its monitors still have to report what they can't help but see on the ground; and that the separatists are only pulled back a few kilometres from Shirokino.

He has gathered the opinions of some of the fighters in the field which he feels are indicative of the sentiments. These were collected during a survey conducted "on LDPR territory" by which he means the 'Lugansk People's Republic," which he apparently characterizes as "democratic" with the additional "D," by the Veis-Novorossiya Agency for Social Political Modeling.

One fighter with the call sign Kedr (Cedar) who was with Col. Igor Strelkov when the separatists fled from Slavyansk says that the eternal debates in the pro-Novorossiya set of "have we been dumped by Moscow or not" are usually held among those not actually fighting in the field.

He says that the militia has now "grown into an army" despite some shortcomings and disappointments but their leaders are pragmatists and fighters are romantics. 

"In the strategic perspective, I don't believe in the future of a Novorossiya state. I see its mission not in the existence of a separate state, but in the generation of the forces that would transform Russia into the Orthodox Empire deterring global evil. Such a Russia was foretold by the Holy Fathers of our Church. And Novorossiya is like that little bit of yeast about which the Savior spoke in the Biblical prophesy which will leaven the whole batch. After fulfilling its mission, Novorossiya will melt into Great Russia equal to other peoples and regions. When? I don't know, I think not soon. But it will be such that our sacrifices will not be in vain."

One unnamed activist, who was involved in the events surrounding the fire at the Trade Union building in his home city of Odessa, and followed the "path from Slavyansk to Debaltsevo," says that the current DNR leadership is kicking out those who belong to the "Russian Spring" out of government. He has now fled to Russia.

"It looks like we have been 'dumped," we are being pushed back into Ukraine. The Russian leadership wants to play for a tie -- exchange the Donbass, or to be more precise the broken-off pieces of territory with 'special status' for the Crimea. That was clear even back in April and May of last year, when the Ukes allowed themselves to shell Slavyansk with impunity. It was all decided back then, and the war was used as an instrument of pressure on Kiev. The DNR leaders, rather 'the separate district with special status" constantly yammers about how the demands the Ukrainians advanced on Maidan have been realized in the DNR. 'There are no oligarchs, we have a people's state." Hmm. To whom do the factories belong to in this people's state? The same Regionnaires. Who runs the People's Council (elected by a list prepared by who knows), in a party of the 'Donetsk Republic' the majority of whose members are law-enforcers and mayor's office officials? That's right, Regionnaires or their appointees. Why didn't they allow Pavel Gubarev into the elections with an awkward excuse, and then deprive him of any way to influence the situation? Because he personified the Idea of Greater Novorossiya and social justice.

Now everyone who had any relationship to the beginning of the Russian Spring is being fired (even the cleaning ladies!) from the Government Building in Donetsk, in order to finally erase the memory of how the people could decide their own fate itself. Summary: There is no Novorossiya, there is no DNR (you cannot call a people's republic the scraps of a region where the appointees of Yanukovich pinch property from Akhmetov, and Akhmetov, through his hirelings, tries to buy them out), the project for social-economic transformations is gone.

What's left? Transnistria No. 2: unemployment, the ageing and lumpenisation of the population (the young and qualified people leave for the Russian Federation) and complete lack of prospects. And such a situation would remain for a long time if it were not the threat of a Great War and the need to use the republics as a place d'armes. Only war could change the situation, the result of which would be the collapse of Ukraine and the annexation of its greater part to the Russian Federation."

The "Regionnaires" are the members of the Party of Regions, a pro-Yanukovych party.

A fighter with the call sign Livonets (Livonian) who is a member of Rusich, had this to say:

"Everything is already long clear with the Donbass and 'Greater Novorossiya': the interests of many sides have clashed in the 'people's republics' -- oligarchs, politicians, bandits, patriots. In fact the latter are in the minority. It is possible that someone at the top wanted for Novorossiya to come into being, but couldn't cope, and couldn't pressure and strike where necessary. Liberal oligarchs have come to power and to the ruling of the project, who don't need a state without oligarchs in any form. So they try to surrender, but they can't even do this because of clueless governance. Novorossiya still has a chance, but it's tiny. Putin cannot help but understand that the 'dumping' of the Donbass will provoke in Russian society extreme dissatisfaction, and the fifth column is already trying to exploit this dissatisfaction on target -- to rid themselves of VVP [Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin]  even at the price of inciting civil war.

The numbers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are growing in geometrical procession and already estimates are that they have grown beyond 70,000. As soon as the rotation finishes and the diplomatic dances around 'demilitarized Shirokino' are finished, the war will resume. And it will be clear that Russia will never betray us, it would be suicide for them."

Finally Dubovoy cites the commander of the Viking Battalion, whose call-sign is "Viking," among the chief subjects of his photography in recent months, whom he describes as "one of the best trained commanders in the military sense of Novorossiya."

"As a military man, I don't have the right to go over possible scenarios for the development of events at the front. I will just say that the enemy (who cannot be underestimated) will clash not with the 'hordes of Moskaley [pejorative term for Russians] in armatas' which exist exclusively in their imagination, but with the asymmetrical retaliations of the Armed Forces of the People's Republics. As for the conversations about whether we have been 'betrayed,' 'dumped,' or pushed back into Ukraine at any price,' these are the idle speculations of those who feed on deza [disinformation] on the Internet. Nobody can push us anywhere. We made a choice and we are defending it at the cost of our own lives. If we -- a handful of poorly armed, untrained fighters -- could (from the military perspective the militia had no chances!) could prevail at Slavyansk over an army ten times stronger than us of a country of 46-million, who can beat us now? And soon our resources will be sufficient to liberate the whole territories occupied by the Nazis. In the final analysis, the Ukrainian Armed Forces will sign the act of unconditional capitulation." 

What can we draw from Dubovoy's post and the announcement of Rusich's withdrawal?

There is a discrepancy here. As we have written, fighting is escalating, more armour is being deployed, and Russian military engineers are constructing new bases in the exact same area Rusich and Viking operate.

The withdrawals could well be a feint - a measure to cast doubt on any future offensive action, one for which the groundwork is seemingly being laid.

The Russian military may also be withdrawing separatist paramilitary units ahead of their replacement by regular forces. During the battle for Debaltsevo and the major offensive last August, it was Russian regulars who led the charge, with irregular militia from separatist groups used to hold ground after capture.

Presenting the removal of such paramilitaries as a withdrawal would deflect attention from their replacement by the regulars from Russia..

Meanwhile, the talk of the "next war" in the posts on Rusich's withdrawal suggests that, even if this is not a feint, then Russia's ultra-nationalist far-right may pose even more of a problem in the long run should the conflict freeze.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick and Pierre Vaux



The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
OSCE Says Their Drones Were Jammed Near Mariupol
The latest OSCE report is dated last night, July 9, at 19:30 Kiev time. What we know is that a significant number of ceasefire violations took place last night, many of them after the time period in question. It is interesting, then, that the OSCE is reporting for the second day in a row that their drones were jammed over territory controlled by the Russian-backed fighters in Donetsk region:

The report begins with this summary:

Although significantly less than the previous day, the level of violence at and around the destroyed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled airport (12km north-west of Donetsk) was high. Positioned at the “DPR”-controlled central railway station (8km north-west of Donetsk), the SMM between 7:50 and 13:00hrs heard the sounds of 103 incoming, 98 outgoing and nine indeterminate rounds. The rounds – either artillery or mortars – impacted in or were fired from locations 3-10km to the north-east, north, north-west and west of the SMM’s position. At the same location between 12:45 and 18:00hrs, the SMM heard an additional 121 incoming and outgoing artillery or mortar rounds, plus small arms and light weapons (SALW) and anti-aircraft fire.

The OSCE noted that the Russian-backed fighters were occupying new positions near Shirokino (Shyrokyne). The Russian-backed fighters withdrew from the town, but as we reported earlier, both military analysts and the statements of the separatist leadership indicate that the town is now effectively a trap for the Ukrainian military. New separatist positions underscore that point:

The SMM noted new “DPR” positions 400m east of the line of contact – 2.1km east of the centre of Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) – and more than 1km east of the line further north. The SMM noted no “DPR” presence in Shyrokyne. Small-arms ammunition, anti-tank mines, rocket-propelled grenade warheads, anti-tank rockets and grenades were littered all across the village. No civilians were present. The SMM noted Ukrainian Armed Forces in the south-west of the village. In nearby government-controlled Sopyne, 4km to the west, a woman and a man told the SMM that the situation had been calm over the previous two days.

The OSCE also reports that east of Mariupol their drones were jammed:

SMM unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) also observed four MBTs in “DPR”-controlled Bezimene (30km east of Mariupol), plus 26 armoured personnel carriers and at least 34 military-type trucks. Additional monitoring through the use of SMM UAVs was deliberately foiled by persistent jamming of the UAVs in a large swathe of “DPR”-controlled territory north and north-east of Mariupol*.

The question remains -- where did the Russian-backed fighters get jamming equipment sophisticated enough to disrupt the OSCE's mission. The obvious possibility is Russia, which possesses sophisticated electronics-warfare equipment that can even pose a challenge to NATO.

The OSCE made other interesting observations, namely heavy fighting near Stanytsia Luganska, which appears to be an area of focus for the Russian-backed fighters:

In government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-west of Luhansk), a Ukrainian Armed Forces representative to the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) on 8 July told the SMM of a skirmish close to the bridge in the early hours of the morning. He said SALW, including heavy machine-guns; anti-aircraft guns and grenade launchers were used. He reported no casualties. The SMM observed fresh craters caused by grenade launchers and 82mm mortars close to the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint at the northern end of the bridge. It observed one heavily-damaged house in the vicinity. The SMM also noted the presence of approximately 30 people – mostly women – waiting to cross the checkpoint. Some of them said they had been coming there daily for more than a week.

The following day in government-controlled Novoaidar (49km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM observed a military helicopter landing close to two waiting ambulances.  Personnel at a nearby Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint told the SMM that two Ukrainian soldiers had been seriously injured in fighting in Shchastya the previous night.

One detail in the report is puzzling, however -- yet again the OSCE SMM reports seeing T-72 main battle tanks in government-controlled territory. Up to this point there has never been any picture, video, or non-OSCE report of the government using T-72s in this conflict, and up to this point the Ukrainian T-72s have been kept in reserve near Lvov because the Ukrainian government does not have the spare parts for those tanks. Yet there have now been a handful of reports like this from the OSCE in the last month.

Read the entire OSCE SMM report here.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Shelling Heard By Reporter In Donetsk
Journalist Kristina Jovanovski has also heard shelling in Donetsk within the last hour, matching reports we ran earlier:
Also, Jovanovski witnessed this unusual sight in the separatist capital:
-- James Miller
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russia Says Crimea Issue Is "Closed" But Ukraine Disagrees

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today that the issue of Crimea is "closed," and was this not up for discussion. Voice of America reports:

“The Crimea issue - and I think everyone understands this, including those who cannot stop talking about it - is closed,” Lavrov said, speaking Thursday at a news conference on the sidelines of a regional summit in the Russian city of Ufa, according to a transcript of his remarks published by Russia’s Foreign Ministry.

“It was closed by the people of Crimea and through the decisions made by the Russian Federation in response to the will clearly expressed by the Crimean people,” Lavrov said, referring to a controversial referendum, which Russia says justified its March 2014 annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine.

“None of our partners are saying that they don’t recognize the results of the referendum, which became the basis for Crimea’s return into the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said at the BRICS-Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit which brought together the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Ukraine sees things very differently. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said that Crimea was "closed off" by Russia, and neither side looks close to seeing eye to eye on this issue. CNS News reports:

“No country for which human rights, international law and global security are not hollow concepts, will ever recognize Russia’s occupation of Crimea or the criminal decisions adopted by the Russian Federation,” he told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

“Russia closed off Crimea from the world,” Klimkin said. “Russia has also closed off Crimea for those on the peninsula who want to live in freedom and prosperity on their native land.”

Meanwhile one of Lavrov’s deputy foreign ministers, Sergei Ryabkov, said Thursday that the notion Russia will ever give up Crimea in order to have the Western sanctions lifted was mistaken.

“To think that Russia will change its policy under the sanctions, if they remain in force, is one of the biggest mistakes of a modern foreign policy pursued by the United States and the European Union,” the Itar-TASS news agency quoted him as saying in Moscow.

“The sanctions imposed over Crimea may last forever because Moscow will never change its stance on Crimea,” he said.

-- James Miller

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