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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Day 799: April 26, 2016

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.
'Patriots' Leave Half a Lenin in Limanskoye After 'Villagers' Chase Them Away; Azov Reportedly Involved

A major brawl broke out over the downing of a Lenin statue in Odessa Region, reported, citing

The incident last weekend was one of a number in Odessa Region and the capital of Odessa that indicate growing tensions between forces loyal to Kiev who identify reform efforts as involving elimination of hated Soviet symbols as well as political figures associated with Russia, and pro-Russian separatists who believe "patriots" are instigating trouble. reported that "a group of 13 unknown persons in military uniforms" arrived by bus to the village of Limanskoye (Lymanske) in the Razdelnyany District of Odessa Region.

At about 16:00 on April 22, which was the 146th anniversay of Lenin's birthday, the men in army urban camouflage began trying to take down the Lenin statue with a rope tied to a bus. When the bus drove away, the statue toppled and half of it cracked off, but the base remained.

22 04 2016 Лиманское сброс Ленина

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Apr 27, 2016 02:58 (GMT)

Local residents heard about the attempt to remove the statute and then came to fight the people in uniform, who were said to be fighters from the Azov battalion who were taking part in exercises in nearby Razdelnyansky Region.

Azov was spotted drilling in the region and mention was made on social media.

Azov, originally a volunteer battalion known for the neo-Nazi views and symbols of some of its members, was recently incorporated into the National Guard. The National Guard denied that its members were involved in the Lenin take-down.

The incident was picked up on Storyful in English. 

As the comments below the Unian article indicated, the removal of Lenin statues, a goal of the new Ukrainian government supported by many Ukrainian citizens to remove symbols of the oppressive Soviet past, is controversial for some.

A reader named Vladimir Grushenko writes (translation by The Interpreter):

"The war on statues is vandalism. Whether you like a statue or not, that's the business of the residents of any city. Only they can decide which monuments should stand in their city."

He commented that people from Limanskoye hadn't gone to Lviv or other western towns where locals supported monuments of the controversial war hero Stepan Bandera and destroyed their statues.

In fact, not only statues of Bandera have been destroyed or vandalized in other parts of Ukraine, but even those of poet Taras Shevchenko and other Ukrainian figures not associated with any Nazi-era past.

Another Unian reader, Oles Solomko, asked:

"The statute of Lenin in Limanskoye is a memorial FOR WHOM? It's a reminder of the bloody totalitarian regime, let it stand, we just need to make the appropriate marker!"

Another reader who gave his name as "Uncle Vitya" said the Lenin statue "wasn't a monument," but "an element of Soviet ideological propaganda."

"Into the furnace with it!!!" he urged.

So many hundreds of Lenin statues have been pulled down throughout Ukraine that Ukrainians have given a term to the phenomenon: "Leninfall."

The question was whether Azov, which is incorporated into the armed forces of Ukraine, was involved in the actual removal of the Lenin statute; the National Guard may have been technically correct when they said its members did not pull down the statute. While the men in the videos are in camouflage, it's not clear if they are officially on duty or representing the armed forces.

But in a statement printed in the comments section on Dumskaya, a commenter purporting to be from the "Azov Civilian Corps" issued an unsigned statement that in fact Azov members were involved in the Lenin downing in Limanskoye -- as security guards of sorts.

The statement said a "group of patriots" had asked them to provide security while they removed the statue "in conformity with Ukraine's decommunization law" so as to "prevent bloodshed."

They denied that any Azov members had beaten anyone and said they had done everything so that "a group of defenders of the great leader of communism did not cross the line." They said they marveled that the Lenin statue "had not got a coat of yellow-and-blue paint" like others in the Maidan revolutionary wave and said the village leaders "should be asked why." They urged them in fact to restore the two Catholic churches in the region that were destroyed by Lenin's decree in Limanskoye during the Russian revolution.

Azov also uploaded a video to YouTube that had a more detailed coverage of the incident, in which a group of people are seen arguing vehemently around the broken statue, with some pushing and shoving.

Про начебто "побиття" АЗОВців під Одесою... Як сепаратисти захищали Леніна

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Apr 27, 2016 03:11 (GMT)

One older man yelled at the Azov soldiers that they had not asked local villagers for permission before tackling the statue. This man persists in trying to explain to the armed Azov soldiers arrayed by the statue that he grew up with Lenin and was used to him. They in turn laughed and urged him to go home.

Some older women stood before the statue, guarding it. Finally a man who seems to be a local official told the angry people surrounding the statue that the patriots are leaving and they shouldn't throw rocks.

But one young boy picks up a stone and hurls it at the departing van.

Another video uploaded by "Vaska Vaskin" titled "residents of Odessa Region chased out Azov fighters" picks up the story and shows one van departing. 

Some men in camouflage have remained behind, however, and some young men begin scuffling with them, throwing punches.

Eventually the men in camouflage get into a van and leave on their own.

Then some of the older villagers watching the incident begin berating the younger people for "behaving like you're in a bazaar" and starting a fight. They swear at them and eventually the crowd disperses.

The impression from these videos is that armed soldiers, evidently from Azov, did get involve in guarding other men in army fatigues who may or may not have been their fellow soldiers while they took down a Lenin statute. It's not clear if their superiors knew of this action or if civilian authorities had consented to it. In any event, as with other Lenins, there was some resistance to the idea of removing this symbol, perhaps because local people were unaware or indifferent to the mass oppression with which Lenin was associated.

A pro-Russian "Novorossiya" supporter on Twitter saw the clash as between "the residents of the Odessian village of Limanskoye" who "chased out the Azov National Guard soldiers who decided to raze the monument to Lenin."

This was not the first Lenin to be tacked in Limanskoye, as in January, a bust was toppled. 

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interior Ministry Aide Says Odessa Situation a 'Political Process' and National Guard Should Not Be Involved
As we reported earlier, Odessa Region Governor Mikheil Saakashvili called on President Petro Poroshenko to deploy the National Guard to prevent further violence in Odessa, where a bank has been bombed and a protesters' tent camp challenging the local pro-Russian mayor has been attacked.

But Ivan Varchenko, an advisor to the  Ukrainian Interior Ministry head said that the National Guard should not be involved in the "political process" in Odessa when it needs to prioritize fighting the war against the Russian-backed separatists, reported.

"Unfortunately, the situation in Odess bears all the signs of a political process, and likely it would not be very correct when the National Guard and entire Ukrainian police would be involved in Odessa or separately the Rovensky Region, because we have challenges that the National Guard should be involved with. Its divisions above all are serving in the ATO Zone."

He said that the head of the Odessa Police should be consulted  about whether the number of police in the region should be increased.

Ukrainians are mindful that coming up is May 2, the anniversary of the tragic fire at the Odessa Trade Union building, when 46 pro-Russian protesters died in a fire after clashes between nationalists and separatists. In that situation, too, a protest camp of pro-Russian activists had been organized by a symbolic building, and after some of these activists shot and killed 5 Ukrainian nationalists in a soccer parade earlier in the day, the nationalists came to attack their camp.

Both sides threw Molotov cocktails that set the building on fire, and the nationalists both helped people to escape and beat some of those trying to get out. Local authorities closed an investigation without justice being served; the lead prosecutor had earlier committed suicide.

Many said that day that the police were too slow in responding and did not do their jobs, or worse, were ordered to stand down by shadowy political forces who deliberately allowed the situation to get out of control  -- that is the context of requests to increase the police presence in Odessa today. 

According to Leviy Bereg, five men who beat up protesters in a camp opposing Trukhanov were arrested today.

The attackers appeared to be pro-Russian and support Trukhanov, who is opposed by the protesters because he holds Russian citizenship and as a former member of the Party of Regions led by deposed president Viktor Yanukovych, is seen as leaning toward Moscow.

While Oleg Bryndak, an adviser to Trukhanov claimed Saakashvili had orchestrated violence himself in the city, Saakashvili himself said the reason the people who had shot at the Pivdenniy Bank were not found was the the Odessa SBU was not doing its job:

"Instead of dealing with the separatists, in recent months the local SBU has been involved only in one thing: tailing a team of reformers, discrediting them, gathering information on me and on others."

He said that "the enemy was not drowsing" given the upcoming anniversary of the May 2 events and possible Russian provocations, and made his appeal to Poroshenko not only to bring in the National Guard but to see the growing threat in Odessa in general:

"Once again, I appeal to the leadership of the SBU and the president to take an interest in the separatists in Odessa, to take an interest in the Russian citizenship and loyalty toward Russia of Trukhanov and his business partners, to take an interest that it turns out he has a multi-million estate in offshores."

The anti-Trukhanov protests began about 10 days ago, and there was at least one bomb threat before the bank was shot:

Translation: Without #Trukhanov : in Odessa, an action of protest has taken place.

Translation: Ex-MP #Firsov : Someone phoned and reported a bomb in one of the tents at the action "For Odess Without Trukhanov."

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Shuster Declares Hunger Strike Over Cancelation of Work Permit; Poroshenko, Groysman Vow to Investigate
As we reported earlier, Savik Shuster, a popular Russian-language talk show host based in Kiev, had his work permit pulled by the Ukrainian government today evidently due to a criminal case opened by the State Fiscal Service for tax violation

He has now announced a hunger strike in protest until the permit is restored, and has vowed to stay on the air even without pay, reported.

He said that with the Orthodox Easter and May holidays coming up, politicians may not pay any attention to a problem he saw as TV censorship and two weeks could go by before his case got attention. "And that was the calculation," he commented. Unian said officials at the Fiscal Service were not available and one they did reach could not provide any explanation.

Yuriy Butusov, editor of Censor.NET wrote earlier on his Facebook page that Poroshenko must have approved the move which may be related to Shuster's own critical comments about corruption in the State Fiscal Service itself.

But in a statement on his Facebook page, Poroshenko himself said he hoped his aides would get to the bottom of the incident and reiterated Ukraine's dedication to free speech:

"Freedom of speech is one of the major achievements of Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity and is a cornerstone of democracy. As guarantor of the Constitution, I have defended and will defend freedom of speech in any of its manifestations.

Therefore I hope that the relevant services will exhaust this incident with the journalist Savik Shuster in the shortest possible time."

Volodymyr Groysman, the new prime minister, assigned his aides to investigate the problem with Shuster's permit and to "resolve it in accordance with the law." The charge is that Shuster did not inform authorities that he was the subject of a financial investigation when he applied to renew the permit and therefore was said to supply "unreliable information."

Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE's Representative on Freedom of the Media, urged the Ukrainian government to investigate the situation and guarantee Shuster's rights.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
On 30th Anniversary of Chernobyl Disaster, KGB Files Show Indifference of Soviet Communist Party to People
Today is the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union, and is today sovereign Ukraine.

The Russian site Takiedela [Such Matters] has posted a number of eerie photographs from Pripyat, the town in Ukraine near the Chernobyl reactor, taken by photoreporter Viktoriya Ivleva, who was inside the forth reactor from which the deadly explosion emanated. She won a World Press Photo prize for her work -- which has mainly not been published in the Soviet or Russian press.

Of course on that fateful day, April 26, 1986, we didn't know at all the full extent of the nuclear disaster because the Soviet government hid the truth even from those most directly affected.

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Soviet Media: Sanitizing Chernobyl

In the days, weeks and months after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, facts were hard to come by. Especially if you were watching Soviet media at the time. (RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service)

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Apr 27, 2016 04:45 (GMT)

Adults and children were sent out for compulsory participation in the annual Soviet ritualistic state parades on May 1 and May 9 without any heed of the nuclear fallout. A state newspaper photo of that day shows smiling people in native costumes waving signs that say "No to War," a stock propaganda poster of the era when the Kremlin pretended (as it does again today) that only the West was belligerent while Moscow was peaceful.


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Chernobyl was a kind of deadly glasnost  -- the emblematic word of the era which means "openness." The reality of the radiation, denied by the Kremlin, was picked up by detectors in nearby Scandinavia and Western governments began to sound the alarm about a catastrophe that ultimately the Soviets could not deny. It was one major event in a string of events (the extent of the Stalin massacres, the shooting of the workers in Novocherkassk, the Sverdlovsk anthrax leak, the toll of the Afghan war, all denied for years) which ultimately contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Konstantin Checherov, a researcher who devoted his life to Chernobyl and was among the first on the scene from the prestigious Kurchatov Institute said in his last interview before his death in 2012 (translation by The Interpreter):

"So much was contrived, that I would put it this way: the real catastrophe wasn't the accident in the 4th block, but the liquidation of the consequences."

The "liquidation" -- a Soviet term that could be used for both the elimination of people and of the aftermath of man-made disasters -- cost many people their lives, first when they directly attempted to quench the flames and then put a covering, which was dubbed the "sarcophagus" over the leaking reactor. As some memoirs of the era indicate (see the article below), some people committed suicide because of the stress of their jobs, and later, the fact that no one would take seriously their real health deterioration. The "liquidators" -- soldiers and volunteers who risked battling the consequences of the explosion -- were given special pensions and a number died early of cancers from radiation exposure.'s blogger Vladimir Vyatrovich has published some of the documents that were declassified from the archives of the KGB, or Committee for State Security, the secret police who controlled every aspect of media and communications at the time.

Vyatrovich writes, as other analysts have before him, that Chernobyl was not merely about a specific accident due to particular negligence at the site; it was about the flaws of the entire Soviet system, mainly sub-standard construction in the controlled economcy and the suppression of true information and the free flow of information even for scientific inquiry to address events of this magnitude.

Chernobyl laid bare the often deadly consequences of shoddy construction and lies about quality control that accompanied every project under pressure from Party officials to "reach and exceed targets" in the planned economy. Accidents continue to this day in Russia and other former Soviet republics due to the shoddy Soviet infrastructure and the culture of corruption and hiding of information.

KGB reports from Chernobyl indicate that shoddy materials, theft of equipment, and improperly-deployed materials were all characteristic of this construction as of others -- they had to meet the five-year plan. Several minor accidents that had occurred before the major one on April 26, 1986, the first in 1982, were never admitted, let alone publicized.

In addressing a challenge that was greater than anything they had ever faced, Soviet officials resorted to their ingrained priorities -- not saving people, but saving the state and those in power in the government. Says Vyatrovich:

"In the declassified documents of the KGB, it is clearly visible that goals the government set for itself in the first hours, first days and first weeks after the accident. Thus, the first task was not rescuing people. The Soviet government considered its main task to intercept the dissemination of information, to not allow the tragedy to become known in Ukraine, the Soviet Union much less abroad. That is why the evacuation of the population was delayed (it began only after 36 hours). Therefore in the first hours after the accident, the most important steps were not made that could have eased the consequences. Everything was done, as the leaders of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic said at the time, so as not to sow panic."

Vyatrovich selects and displays some of the fateful documentsfrom the archives -- an official memo describing a government commission's decision to evacuate more than 44,500 people only on April 27 and only in two districts, leaving 5,000 to work on cleaning up the Chernobyl accident; a print-out from a dosimeter showing the high doses of radiation exactly at the time and date when tens of thousands of people were sent out on the Kreshchatik, the main thoroughfare in Kiev for the parade; a memo marked "Secret" from an official named Lamonov dated May 1, 1986 admitting that the chief physician had found that there was a sharp surge of radiation in Kiev at 10:30 am on May 1, reaching 13,000 to 15,000 microroentgensper hour; the recommended limit was 0.3 roentgen per week (this unit of measurement is no longer used).

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Vyatrovich also comments on the way the Chernobyl disaster's reality break-through helped bring about the Soviet collapse. To the extent that people supported the Soviet government -- after, of course, decades of purges, collectivization and the mass famine-terror known as the Holodomor left few able to resist -- it was based on a social contract that came down to this: we will protect you and give you the basics to survive if you don't challenge us. Chernobyl revealed the extent to which the state could not protect people and how its claims to wrangle the "peaceful atom" were hollow.

"The heart of the sovok [the Soviet man] was splintered -- the expectation that the government will do everything for you" and now every man had to save himself," commented Vyatrovich.

Vyatrovich also makes the point that Chernobyl was a watershed for the West as well, because their unspoken contract until then was this: go ahead and make totalitarianism behind the "Iron Curtain," but stay behind it and don't bother us. Chernobyl's radiation obviously went through the curtain and caused harm to the West as well. Only recently, for example, were some sheep and goats in some areas cleared for slaughter for human consumption in the UK.

Finally, says Vyatrovich, Chernobyl was a breakthrough for Ukraine itself. Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika, which had begun in 1985, didn't initially affect Ukraine, and the then-Party boss Volodymyr Shcherbytsky was confident he could isolate his republic from "Moscow's harmful influence" which in this particular historical period involved liberalization. 

The brunt of the nuclear fallout fell on Belarus, among the most oppressive of the Soviet republics (then as now), and there, the first Chernobyl Processions led by physicist Yuri Khadyka and supported by nationalists in the Belarusian Popular Front seeking independence from Soviet Russia got their start.

Among the most bizarre reactions to the anniversary recalled today has been the 2011 statement from Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill who used the occasion to claim that the Chernobyl accident was "a punishment for godlessness". 

"After all, the Lord God could have stayed the hand of the operator committed the terrible mistake in managing the reactor. But God allowed it, and many people made the contribution of their death for the redemption of the sins of many."

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that Russia's aggression against Ukraine and support of the separatist militants created the danger of another nuclear accident:

As Ukrainians solemnly commemorated the 30th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident on Tuesday, President Petro Poroshenko said that Russia’s support for separatists in the country’s east posed the threat of a repetition of the atomic catastrophe.

The remarks came at Chernobyl, where an international effort to seal the destroyed remains of the nuclear reactor that exploded in Ukraine 30 years ago is finally close to completion. Remarkably, despite the political revolution and armed conflict that have rocked the country since 2014, it’s close to being on schedule.

On Tuesday, Poroshenko stressed the political importance of nuclear power for Ukraine, saying the country would “neither today, nor tomorrow,” halt nuclear reactors because of the importance of maintaining the country’s energy independence, implying away from Russian gas.

Standing inside a gigantic dome that will soon be installed over the reactor, Poroshenko said that “Russian aggression had undermined the trust of non-nuclear governments in the nonproliferation of these weapons, and threatened the repeat of a nuclear catastrophe in our country.” He noted that fighting had taken place several hundred kilometers from the nuclear power plant in the city of Zaporozhiye.

Some articles on the 30th anniversary of Chernobyl:

-- Chernobyl Thirty Years Later: Those who live in its shadow still suffer.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Saakashvili Calls For National Guard To Be Deployed In Odessa After Violence Last Night

Mikheil Saakashvili, the governor of the Odessa region and former President of Georgia, has called on President Poroshenko to deploy additional National Guard and police units in the regional capital.

Leviy Bereg reports on Saakashvili's video message:

"Tonight, hire[d] thugs beat up protesters right next to the town hall, with surveillance cameras switched off beforehand," Saakashvili said in a video address.

He also recalled that on the same night rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the office of one of the banks.

"I call on and I ask the President to deploy in Odessa additional units of the National Guard and police, providing them with everything they need, including food, a place to sleep, and financing," the governor said.

Saakashvili called on Poroshenko and the Security Service to draw attention to the activities of the separatists and increase vigilance on the eve of the anniversary of the fire in the House of Trade Unions in Odesa on 2 May.

Last night saw unrest in the city, with protesters outside the city hall attacked and a rocket-propelled grenade fired at the office of a bank.

The incident with the grenade took place at around 23:25 last night on Krasnov Street, reported.

The Odessa police department confirmed that a blast had struck the elevator shaft of an office of the Pivdenny Bank, at around the level of the third floor.

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The discarded launch tube of an RPG-26 was found nearby:

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Later, in the early hours of this morning, up to 40 men armed with bats attacked a protest camp outside the city council building. The protesters are calling for the resignation of the mayor of Odessa, Gennady Trukhanov.

Activist Alevtina Krotkaya told

"At 3:55 am a minibus pulled up. They raised the barrier for it. Out of the bus came men, armed with sticks with metal tips like maces, and chains, and they started to smash the camp, tearing down posters, throwing everything over the fence, pouring gasoline and spraying gas."

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According to activists, a webcam monitoring the city hall was disabled to conceal the attackers' identities.

Trukhanov is a former member of Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions and was revealed, by documents leaked from the Panamanian offshore services firm Mossack Fonseca, to have undeclared business assets and joint Russian citizenship.

As The Moscow Times reports, citing Ukraine's 112 television channel, protesters have now barricaded the city hall to defend their picket:

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Protesters Barricade City Hall in Ukraine's Odessa | News

Protesters in the Ukrainian city of Odessa have barricaded the city hall, Ukrainian news website reported Tuesday. Crowds calling for the resignation of city mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov blocked entrances to the building with trash cans, tires and fences, according to media reports.

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Apr 26, 2016 14:57 (GMT)

Meanwhile Oleg Bryndak, an adviser to Trukhanov, accused Saakashvili himself of organising both the violence outside the city hall and the RPG attack.

Bryndak claimed that the regional government, headed by Saakashvili, was attempting to seize power by destabilising the work of the city council.

-- Pierre Vaux