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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukraine at War: Day 775

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.
Poroshenko Cites Three Conditions for Elections to Take Place in Donbass

President Petro Poroshenko has cited three conditions for elections in the Donbass at a forum in Washington, DC where he met with President Barack Obama, Obozrevatel' reports.

These include an OSCE police force to maintain order, free media and an independent electoral commission, and a start to the restoration to Ukraine of control over the Ukrainian-Russian border in the southeast -- currently under Russian control (translation by The Interpreter of Russian report):

"We are interested in unblocking the political process and holding local elections in Donbass.

Free and honest elections means that the elections must take place fairly and freely, we cannot pronounce the occupation of Donbass as legitimate through farcical elections or elections in the Russian understanding of 'free and fair' which has nothing in common with democratic standards."

Poroshenko said the international community would have to recognize the elections.

To make this possible, said Poroshenko, the OSCE should deploy a police mission to the Donbass to maintain security in the transitional period before, during and after the elections. He said it was impossible to conceive of these elections with "thousands of Russian Federation servicemen on the streets." 

"Everyone understands that independent media does not exist in the occupied territoris, an independent electoral commission does not exist, and more than 1.7 million people who left the Donbass do not have the right to vote."

In the past, Poroshenko has also flagged the lack of registration for Ukrainian parties in the areas controlled by the self-declared "Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples' Republics" (DNR and LNR), which has also been a problem in creating conditions that meet OSCE standards.

Russia and the Russian-backed militants constantly harp on the need for Ukraine to pass constitutional amendments that would provide more autonomy and "self-governance" for the Donbass.

Poroshenko's response has been to point out that first, Russia should cease its support of militants that continue to shell Ukrainian positions with heavy artillery banned under the Minsk accords. They have not done this as we have continued to report.

In the past, Poroshenko and other world leaders have sequenced the full return of the Ukrainian border to Kiev's control after the change in the constitution and after elections. But now he has pointed out the need at least to start that process, likely because without it, Russia will go on sending into Ukraine across this undefended border tanks, weapons, ammunition and troops, sometimes under the guise of humanitarian aid. OSCE monitors have very little access to most of this the border and even by their limited view, have amply reported on uniformed militants and vehicles passing back and forth freely.

While unrecognized elections have taken place in the Donbass since the Russian invasion, they have been with soldiers on the street and no alternative candidates, so that the armed forces of the "people's republics" merely ratified their existing leadership at the end of a bayonet. While no one doubts that they have their supporters, they also have many unhappy citizens in their thrall who tend to leave the area if they get the chance.

Even those among their own ranks who have been dissenters in any fashion -- whistleblowers on corruption, or perhaps those wishing to fight harder against Ukrainians or, conversely, make a deal with Ukraine -- have been assassinated -- at least 3 commanders and a mayor have all been killed under suspicious circumstances in the last year.

While Poroshenko hasn't mentioned this condition yet, another issue is access for authentic and impartial international monitors and Ukrainian monitors who aren't allied with the Donbass militants. The DNR/LNR response to the issue of "monitoring" has been to bring in various friends and supporters of President Vladimir Putin in various far-right or far-left movements and parties in Europe and the United States -- who turn in predictable results.

A Ukrainian peace-keeping commander has questioned this idea, given the likelihood that the DNR and LNR simply won't allow access to areas under their control -- the way they currently don't allow access to civilian monitors.

We could also note that the precedents for police forces to be deployed in conflict or even post-conflict zones within the OSCE is very weak. After the pogroms in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, in which 400 people, mainly Uzbeks were killed, OSCE attempted to get a police "advisory" mission sent to the area, but local leaders prevented access.

Even UN peace-keepers are scarce in this region -- in the past, during the Yeltsin era, peace-keepers were deployed to Georgia where they didn't last long, and military monitors deployed to Tajikistan -- where they were killed. 

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Heavy Fighting Continues in Donbass; 4 Ukrainian Soldiers Injured; Russian Separatist Commander 'Batka' Killed
Heavy fighting continued at the line of contact, with Russian-backed milita firing 65 times at Ukrainian army positions, reported.

According to Unian, four Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in battle, Andrei Lysenko, spokesman for the presidential administration on ATO issues reported. One was wounded in Zaytsevo; 1 in Avdeyevka and 2 in Nevelskoye.

According to the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] press center's page on Facebook early this morning Kiev time, separatist fighters used 120-mm and 82mm artillery to fire on Avdeyevka 6 times and also on Neveslkoye and Zaytsevo.

Along the Donetsk line, militants used large-caliber artillery and anti-tank missile systems in Peski, Luganskoye, Novgorodskoy, Opytnoye and the Butovka coal mine.

Along the Mariupol line, there was repeated use of machine guns and grenade-launchers on Novotroitskoye and Maryinka and along the Luganskoye line toward Novozvanovka, Boguslavskoye and Stepnoye.

The ATO said (translation by The Interpreter):

"In order to repel the pincer of the enemy, our fighters had to open return fire 12 times but only from firarms and grenade-launchers, not violating the Minsk agreement [restriction on heavy artillery]."

Later in the day, the ATO reported again, saying the situation was "stabilizing", contrasting the previous report of 36 shellings during the day today with 6 in the evening. However firing from 82-mm artillery, banned under Minsk, did continue on Avdeyevka and Peski to the north and northwest of Donetsk. Firing also continued on the Butovka coal mine, Optynoye and Novozvanovka,

A Ukrainian TV program described how Ukrainian troops keep up their spirits with dogs on the front line -- the dogs are often the ones to first hear signs of attack as well.

The Russian-backed separatist media reported today that a famous fighter whose call sign was "Batka" [Daddy], one of the Gorlovka commanders, was killed in battle, Novosti Donbassa reported.

Both Batka and his son fought on the front line with "Botsman," another well-known fighters. Batka was also responsible for registering businesses in Donetsk on behalf of the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic."

In other news:

o Two civilians were killed in an explosion of a passenger vehicle in Donetsky, a village in Lugansk Region. The vehicle ran over a mine, killing a man and woman, Novosti Donbassa reported.

o The SBU says it has caught a spy who was working for the Russians and recruiting fighters for the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR), Unian reported.

In a video uploaded to YouTube by the SBU, he was said to be a member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, planted deliberately to recruit to the other side. He was also said to have conveyed military intelligence under Russian direction about the location of positions of the UAF to the DNR.

The suspect's face is blurred out in the video as the SBU captures and searches him, and his name is not given. He is taken away handcuffed to a military vehicle and brought to prison.

o There has been some discussion of having OSCE put in place a police mission in the Donbass if peace is established.

Novosti Donbassa recounts that Mikhail Savchenko, a member of the peace-keeping battalion of Ukraine in Sarayevo, said it made no sense to send the mission until there was a political settlement. He also said such a police mission would have the same access problems that currently civilian monitors of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission confront daily in the Donbass.

"The DNR and LNR fighters will not let them in, and that will be the end of that," he commented.

o  Oksana Sokolovskaya, the lawyer for Yevgeny Yerofeyev, one of two captured GRU officer awaiting trial in Ukraine, published two photos of people she says are suspects in the murder of her colleague Yury Grabovsky (Hrabovsky), who was the lawyer for Aleksandr Aleksandrov, the other GRU officer, reported, citing TSN:

"According to the investigation's information, these two jerks are suspected of the murder of Yury Grabovsky. I find this yard to believe...Moreover, 26-year-old Artyomv was in Egypt and calmly posted a photo on the social network from a resort."

Grabovsky's friends and colleagues were puzzled when his Facebook page unexpectedly said he had been forced to leave Ukraine and had gone to Sharm al-Sheik, a resort popular with Russians in Egypt but which has emptied out since terrorists crashed the Metrojet full of Russian vacationers flying from that location.

In fact, it turned out later that Hrabovsky's murderer had posted the notice from his Facebook after evidently torturing his password out of him. Hrabovsky was found dead with signs of violent treatment on an old collective farm in Kiev region.

o  Workers took down a large iron statue of Sergo (Grigory) Ordzhonokidze, a Georgian Bolshevik hero and close associate of Joseph Stalin, which had stood at the Azovstal plant, reported. The dismantling of the Soviet-era symbol was made under the law on de-communization.

2016-04-03 00:14:21

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick