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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 582

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.
Russian Prosecutors Call For Replacement Of Savchenko's Defence Team; She Threatens Hunger Strike

Nikolai Polozov and Mark Feygin, lawyers for Nadezhda Savchenko, report that the prosecution at her trial are calling for the dismissal of the defence team. Savchenko herself has threatened to renew her hunger strike if her lawyers are removed.

Translation: The prosecution has called for the removal of Savchenko's defence team. We're now debating #FreeSavchenko Surreal...
Translation: The prosecutors have repeatedly called for the removal of the lawyers. Savchenko said that if this happens, she will declare a hunger strike to get us back

Translation: The "considerate" prosecutors are requesting the removal of the defence so as to help Savchenko. But they don't want to drop charges against an innocent person?

Earlier this afternoon, the defence team challenged charges that Savchenko had "crossed the Russian border illegally," by pointing out that she had in fact been in separatist captivity.

Translation: Feygin: On June 23 fighters of the ZARYA battalion of the LNR handed Savchenko over to the Russian intelligence services, who transported her across the border

When the father of one of the journalists Savchenko is accused of killing was called in to speak, Savchenko told the court: 

Translation: "I didn't kill your son. I'm very sorry that he died. Our guys have been killed too," - Savchenko to the father of cameraman Voloshin.

As the BBC Russian Service reports, Savchenko protested her innocence before the court:

"I did not see the journalists... I have never fired on unarmed people in my life. I am a soldier, not a killer.

I am an aviator, not an artillerist. These are very different things." 

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Tanks Appear In 'DNR Tank Biathlon'

Preparations began yesterday for a 'tank biathlon,' a demonstration of tank crews' skill and prowess, at training range in separatist-held territory near Saur-Mogila.

According to to the official VKontakte page of the "1st Army Corps of the Donetsk People's Republic [DNR]," the crews taking part are all from DNR units.

NewsFront, a pro-separatist site, reports, citing DNR military commander Aleksandr Voronin, that some of the tanks taking part were captured from the Ukrainian army during the battle of Debaltsevo in February this year.

Most of the tanks seen in video footage of the preparations, released by Ruptly, a video news service owned by the Russian state propaganda channel RT, are T-72B1s.

These tanks first appeared in large numbers in eastern Ukraine in August, 2014. At the time, there were no Ukrainian T-72s engaged in front-line activities, with these vehicles remaining mothballed, Kiev claims, until winter that year.

For more on this subject, see The Interpreter's special report: 

But, while Ukrainian troops may have deployed T-72s by the time of the battle of Debaltsevo (although sightings on the front line have been few and far between), there are at least two tanks seen in the Ruptly footage that cannot be explained away as trophies.



These tanks are modernised variants of the T-72, equipped with Kontakt-5 explosive reactive armour (ERA) wedges around the turret. There are several variants of the tank carrying these distinctive defences, none of which have been exported to Ukraine.


At least one of the tanks appears to be a T-72BM (model 1989).

Another pro-separatist site, the 'Federal News Agency' (FAN), posted more photos of tanks participating in the biathlon.

At least one T-72BM can clearly be seen here:



-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Trial of Nadezhda Savchenko Underway in Donetsk, Russia

The trial of Nadezhda Savchenko, a Ukrainian military officer who was captured by separatist fighters in Ukraine last summer and illegally transported to Russia, has begun in the Russian border town of Donetsk in the Rostov region.

Savchenko is accused of directing mortar fire that killed two Russian state television reporters on June 17, 2014.

Journalists are barred from the courtroom but a live feed has been available via RFE/RL:

Andrey Kozenko, a reporter for, tweeted:

Translation: This is the first hearing where no one can see the faces of the judges. Journalists are not allowed into the chamber, and they're off screen

Translation: The courtroom is full of Cossacks instead of journalists. No one from the press has been allowed in. Here's your open trial

Jüri Vendik of the BBC Russian Service: 

Translation: Savchenko's lawyers request the exclusion of the Ukrainian victims from the case:

Translation: Savchenko's lawyer Ilya Novikov: "The investigators understand that those (killed) people were militants, and that the shelling was directed at a military target.

Indeed footage of the attack that killed the two Russian journalists makes it clear that the checkpoint, near the Ukrainian village of Metallist, was manned by soldiers and two armoured vehicles:

Elena Romanova, editor in chief of regional news site, tweeted:

Translation: Lawyer Novikov: why has a Russian Federation court taken it upon itself to try a Ukrainian for endangering the life of a Ukrainian?

Translation: Savchenko's lawyer: The Russian Federation is sending troops to Syria. Will we now try Syrians for killing Syrians

Vendik quotes another of Savchenko's lawyers, Nikolai Polozov:

Translation: #Savchenko @Moscow_advokat : the story with the militants is disadvantageous, it's advantageous to point to the civilians as victims. However none of them were wounded


Translation: The defence has filed a motion to return the case for further investigation. The Investigative Committee has attempted to conceal the fact that the shelling was directed at a group of militants.

Translation: The essence of the accusation is the conclusion that Savchenko supposedly specifically directed shelling towards civilians (and not at the separatists' checkpoint)

Translation: Nadezha Savchenko is being read her charges. Coordinating the fire of the Aidar Battalion. Some of the details of the accusations are making her laugh.

Translation: "Savchenko climbed up a 40-metre radio mast and coordinated the killing of the residents of the village of Metallist, who bore no signs of military involvement"

Translation: The prosecution insists that Savchenko intentionally directed fire on people "who were not involved in armed conflict"

Translation: Remember: Savchenko's lawyers demand that it be recognised that the presumed actions of the pilot wounded armed separatists, and not civilians

Translation: Savchenko is charged under article 105 of the Russian Criminal Code "killing of 2 or more people in a publicly dangerous manner, motivated by hatred towards one social group" (the people of the Donbass)

Savchenko's defence team argue not only that the checkpoint was a military target, but also that she was in fact held captive by separatist militants at the time of the attack:

-- Pierre Vaux

Furthermore, as a member of the Parliamentary Association of the Council of Europe (Savchenko was elected to the Verkhovna Rada last autumn), she holds diplomatic immunity under international law. The Russian authorities have ignored petitions for her trial to be suspended. 

-- Pierre Vaux