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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 551

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.
Defense Team Video Shows Savchenko Captured Before Journalists Killed

The defense team for imprisoned pilot Nadiya (Nadezhda) Savchenko has released a video explaining how Russia's claim that she was accomplice to the murder of Russian state journalists last year are not substantiated, Kiev Post reported.

Last year on June 17, 2014, Igor Kornylyuk and his sound man Anton Voloshyn from VGTRK (State TV and Radio Committee) were killed at a checkpoint in Lugansk region. Russian investigators claim Savchenko was a spotter for Ukrainian forces that supposedly deliberately targeted the camera crew.

But evidence gathered by Mark Feigin, a Moscow-based attorney and other lawyers defending Savchenko challenge the Kremlin's claims.

Says the Kyiv Post:

The video gives a reconstruction of a battle between Ukrainian troops and Russian-separatist forces which began approximately at 6 a.m. on June 17, 2014. It uses Google Maps and detailed tracking of the mobile phones of both Savchenko and the killed Russian journalists. The phone tracking data was provided by the Security Service of Ukraine.

According to the mobile tracking data, when Savchenko was taken captive near the village of Stukalova Balka in Luhansk Oblast at 10 a.m., the journalists were still in central Luhansk, some three kilometers from the place where they were killed an hour later.

The timing of Savchenko's capturing was verified by Kyiv-based Research Institute of Forensic Science that analyzed the position of the sun on the video showing Savchenko captured. The video was shot and published by the separatists.

Savchenko was brought to Luhansk at 10:44 a.m., which is reflected in the video of her interrogation, while Russian journalists left central Luhansk and arrived into suburban Kombrod district in the northern part of the city at 10:45 a.m., according to the eye-witness taxi driver.

Meanwhile after Savchenko was already captured, the team of Russian journalists was on its way to the checkpoint at Metalist at 11:00.

A video of the capture made by a separatist fighters also enables an analysis of the sun's position by the Kiev Research Institute of Forensic Science.

A taxi driver who took the Russian journalists to the checkpoint said they were at the center of Lugansk at 10:26, at 10:45 in Kombrod by the outskirts of the city and they started toward the checkpoint around 11:00 -- when Savchenko was already captured. The journalists were then killed at 11:40 am Kiev time.

Last year, as The Interpreter reported, a video taken by a member of the Russian camera crew published by establishes that they went to this checkpoint, not wearing any protective gear.

They had already been filming in this area, embedded with Russian-backed fighters the previous day and planned to return home on June 17. But they went back to the checkpoint to follow up a claim -- never substantiated -- made by an interview subject the day before that Ukrainian forces supposedly stabbed everyone in a village. As we wrote:

Sound engineer Anton Voloshin was killed at the scene - the village of Metalist [Metallist] village outside the city of Luhansk - while a reporter, Igor Kornelyuk, died in hospital during surgery. A third member of the crew survived.

This video provides some insight into what may have happened. It starts off with the cameraman filming something smoking. The smoke gets worse right before the explosion. Our best guess is that a mortar shell had already landed there but did not detonate right away. After the first explosion, several incoming shells can be heard, and there are more explosions.

A possible alternative explanation is that the first explosion, likely of whatever we see smoking at the start of the video, triggered incoming fire. As the video starts after the incident has started, it's not entirely clear.

The film shows clearly that the journalists were at the checkpoint, unprotected, and even dove for cover under APCs, all of which were legitimate targets of war.

BBC correspondent Daniel Sandford was covering the war in Lugansk Region at the time and found a longer version of the video posted by

In this video, several shells are heard to fall from varying distances. The group of journalists can be spotted through the highway rail with fighters from the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR).

2015-08-22 17:54:04

A DNR fighter then moves toward a shell that did not detonate; it goes off. Next he is shown dragging the body of a uniformed fighter away from the scene.

From this video, The Interpreter has geolocated the video at the Metalist checkpoint here on Google Maps.

The checkpoint is a former post of the GAI, or Ukrainian traffic police.

A photo published on Google Maps by Sanja Belkin shows this post as it was in 2009.

2015-08-22 17:22:18

The RT video shows a road sign indicating the direction to Krasny Luch:


A Parallel gas station sign can be seen on the side of the road as the fighter runs.

2015-08-22 17:35:53

As the cameraman hides under the APC, he films the road, which is going uphill, indicated by the striped railings. The gas station can be glimpsed under the APC.


A user of Wikimapia named butilkavodi took a photo of the same gas station labelled "AGNKS" in which the sign "Metalist" is visible, which confirms the location.

2015-08-22 17:39:21

Both Sanford and builkavodi refer to the AGNKS gas station; a news report confirms that this location became a Parallel gas station in 2012. Parallel has distinctive green and orange colors.

Here is a diagram of the video juxtaposed on a screenshot from Google Maps:


Given the defense team's video with cell phone records showing geolocations indicating Savchenko was captured before the journalists reached the checkpoint, and's own video showing the camera crew deliberately loitered by a checkpoint  unprotected and one crew member even hid under an APC, it appears that the criminal charges have been fabricated.

Savchenko, who is on trial in the Russian town of Rostov on the Ukrainian border, faces up to 25 years of imprisonment. Russian officials have refused to consider her a prisoner of war, enabling her case to fall under the Minsk agreement providing for POW exchanges.

-- Catherine Fitzpatrick and Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian-Backed Fighters Shell Popasnaya and Environs; 1 Ukrainian Soldier Wounded; Utilities Out

Fighters from the self-proclaimed "Lugansk People's Republic" fired on Popasnaya and nearby villages, reported, citing the office of the Lugansk Region Military and Civilian Administration.

The night was quiet in Stanitsa Luganska, except for local shooting of firearms. About 23:00, Bolotennoye was blanketed with machine-gun fire.

Heorgiy Tuk, governor of Lugansk Region, stated (translation by The Interpreter):

In defiance of the Minsk agreements, 'local shelling' continues in Lugansk Region. Last night the military near Popasnaya was fired on from artillery. Today in Popasnaya, there are festivities marking Ukraine Independence Day and a ceremony to raise the State Flag. The whole town is turning out for the holiday. Despite the shelling at night, city residents are coming to honor Ukraine.

Ukraine's Independence Day is August 24, and officials have repeatedly expressed apprehension that Russian-backed separatists will step up their attacks toward that day in an attempt to demoralize Ukrainians. Meanwhile, Russian propaganda has been insisting there is a Ukrainian build-up.

Translation: News from Donetsk: Ukrainian military are increasing forces in Donbass for a possible offensive. further reported from the governor's office that the village of Valuyskoye near Stanitsa Luganskaya was shelled and houses damaged. A gas line was hit and 224 households were left without gas; an electrical power line was also damaged and 500 homes left without light. One shell hit near the city administration building.

One Ukrainian soldier was wounded near Troitskaya.

In Zolotoye, a barrage of mortars damaged two homes and injured a man and damaged a transformer, leaving the city without electricity.

Tuk commented:

"These homes had just been repaired recently from funds from the district budget after the latest round of shelling from the fighters. The terrorists most likely pounded positions in their sights previously. And that's how it is practically every day, they shoot and we repair. And there is no end and no edge to this violence and destruction which the 'Russian world' has brought to Lugansk Region."

Aleksandr Motuzyanik, speaker on ATO [anti-terrorist operation] affairs for the presidential administration, said the situation had worsened particularly in the direction of Mariupol:

Enemy fire on Ukrainian lines of defense has been conducted from heavy artillery. Notably the Ukrainian defense areas near Bogdanovka, Prokhorovka, Starognatovka, Lebedinsky and Vinogradny to the east of Mariupol were shelled. Residential areas of Prokhorovka were shelled from howitzers. It was determined that shelling was coming from near Belaya Kamenka which is controlled by the illegal armed formations. The enemy was active on that area of the front from midnight until 10:00 am. No other enemy provocations were recorded during the rest of the time.

He also noted shelling of ATO positions in Valuyskoye and but Schastye, Trekhizbenka, and Krymskoye were relatively quiet.

The enemy is active in the west of Lugansk Region. Thus in the area of the Bakhmutka Highway, bandit formations shelled Ukrainian defense lines near Novotoshkovskaya with anti-tank grenade-launchers and mortar-launchers. It was not quiet in Zolotoye. Enemy fire from grenade-launchers began at noon and continued until late in the evening. Then a diversionary reconnaissance group from the enemy made an attempt to break through the line of defense in that region. After a battle the enemy was forced to retreat. Throughout the day near Zolotoye, the enemy used mortar-launchers, 122-mm artillery and mobile Partisan Grad missile systems.

He also noted firing on Popasnaya and Troitskaya and in the Donetsk line east of the Svetlodar reservoir, there were a number of armed provocations after midnight. West of the reservoir violations of the ceasefire were also recorded near the village of Zaytsevo. It was relatively quiet in the suburbs of Gorlovka, he said. Motuzyanik said shelling continued in the area of the Donetsk Airport and round-the-clock near Krasnogorovka and Marinka.

Meanwhile, there were a few reports of incoming shellfire in the Gorlovka suburbs.

Translation: Incoming on the outskirts #Gorlovka.

Lugansk News Today reported  that the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) arrested members of a terrorist group reportedly coordinated and financed by Yevgeny Zhilin of Oplot. 

According to the SBU website, the three arrested were ex-cons who lived in Kharkiv and had made trips to Belgorod where they were reported to have contacted Russian intelligence. The head of the group's call-sign was "Tank" and a female member by the name of "Lisa" (Fox) had joined the Ukrainian army to conduct surveillance. The group had home-made bombs, grenades and an RPG-18 grenade launcher in their possession at the time of arrest.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick