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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
Day 836: June 2, 2016

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
Russian-Backed Fighters Dug In Near Water Treatment Plant So Ukraine Can't Fire Back

Clouds of smoke  after an artillery strike near separatist-held “Shakhta” on March 31 near Avdeyevka. "At left, in the distance, a tall smokestack marks the location of a water-filtration plant caught in the crossfire." (Pete Kiehart/For The Washington Post)

For some time, one key focus for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine has been the security and repair of key infrastructure, like water treatment plants, that are vital to civilians who are trapped in the conflict zones. However, now the the head of the monitoring mission is warning that Russian-backed fighters have dug in around a key water treatment plant near Avdeyevka, and the destruction of the facility could release huge amounts of chemicals, including concentrating chlorine, and trigger “an environmental disaster.”

The Washington Post reports:

More than a ton of chlorine, which in concentrated forms is highly toxic, arrives daily at the plant. Damage to storage containers could expose up to 20,000 people to serious health problems, according to Voda Donbassa, which operates the facility.

Ukrainian commanders have forbidden their soldiers to return fire from separatists dug in around the plant, recognizing the magnitude of that risk as well as the prospect of a public-relations disaster for Kiev.


“The separatists use the water-filtration plant as cover to launch attacks on us,” said Vlad Yushkevich, 41, a platoon commander in Ukraine’s 58th Mechanized Brigade, which is stationed on the hillside opposite the plant. “We’re banned from firing back. The enemy knows this and uses it to his advantage.”


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As fighting surges again in Ukraine, an environmental disaster looms

Land mines and sniper fire, tank traps and unexploded shells have shut down Highway 20, the main artery into eastern Ukraine's separatist stronghold of Donetsk. But despite the upheavals caused by two years of war, ordinary life along the route has struggled on. As violence surges again, that could change.

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Jun 03, 2016 00:41 (GMT)

The leaders of the Russian-backed fighters have highlighted their desire to recapture Avdeyevka, a town near Donetsk which has been the epicenter of much of the fighting for many months. As we reported earlier today, heavy artillery has been spotted firing in the area held by Russian-backed fighters today, seen in video by an OSCE drone in the area before it was destroyed near Gorlovka to the north. This artillery is deployed near civilian residences, in an attempt to prevent Ukraine from returning fire. By firing from areas near the water treatment plant, Russian-backed fighters are using an even more sophisticated method of employing human shields to give themselves an edge. 

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Savchenko Joins MPs Opposing Constitutional And Judicial Reform Bill

As we reported earlier today, Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has passed bills on amendments to the constitution and the judiciary. 

The move was welcomed by many international diplomats, but was criticised by two of Ukraine's political parties.

Now Nadiya Savchenko, who had initially supported the measures, has come out against them and co-authored a draft bill to delay their signing into law.

Leviy Bereg reports that the draft was registered this afternoon by both Savchenko and Yuriy-Bohdan Shukhevych, an MP in the Radical Party.

Savchenko said that she had changed her mind on the bill after reading it in full.

Echoing points made earlier today by the Samopomich party, she told the 112 television channel this evening that the Rada had not been given sufficient time to review the 200-page bill.

Instead, she suggested, MPs should be given one or two weeks to go over the document and suggest amendments.  

Savchenko added that as some deputies in the Rada were either not paying attention or were "volunteers or people who are not sufficiently politically educated," such complex bills should not be rushed into law.

In comments published on the Batkivshchyna party website, Savchenko said that politicians should not "tamper with the constitution" during wartime. 

There were suggestions, based on photographs that appear to show Savchenko remonstrating with Batkivshchyna leader Yulia Tymoshenko on the Rada floor, that the two had argued on the matter. 

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Photo via Segodnya.ua
2016-06-02 17:55:28

However Savchenko told 112 that there had been no argument but expressions of mutual frustration and surprise at the processing of the bill.

Meanwhile Deputy Rada Speaker Oksana Syroid, a member of the Samopomich party, added her support to delaying the bill, telling reporters that, in addition to unclear formulae and mechanisms included in the bill, there were greater problems in that the reform of the judiciary would still depend too much on the government.

"The main risk. Unfortunately, is that there is no faith in the integrity of the institutions which would be responsible for the implementation of the judicial reform. It is true that there is a huge deficit of trust in the President. And while the influence of this on the judicial system will decrease, it will still remain in part. There is also distrust of local government, which is today still formed from the judges themselves." 

-- Pierre Vaux
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Another OSCE Drone Downed Over Separatist-Held Gorlovka; All Long-Range UAVs Now Lost

Daniel Baer, the US Ambassador to the OSCE, reports that another of the organization's drones has been brought down over separatist-controlled Gorlovka.

This is the second such incident in a week. 

On Friday morning last week, another UAV used for long-range monitoring by the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) was lost on the southwestern outskirts of the town.

The SMM reported that "shortly before communications were lost," the UAV had spotted a 9K35 Strela-10 surface-to-air missile system.

Baer writes that today's loss means that the SMM no longer possess any long-range drones with which to monitor ceasefire violations or deployments of weaponry near the front line in the Donbass.

Earlier today the SMM reported that their UAVs had yesterday spotted another type of anti-aircraft missile system, a 9K33 Osa, near separatist-held Korsun - a village just south of Gorlovka.

The SMM also reported the presence of significant quantities of armour and artillery, including five Grad multiple-launch rocket systems, in Donetsk city.

Furthermore, the deputy chief monitor of the SMM, Alexander Hug, told reporters this morning that on May 28 the group had received reports and seen evidence of Russian-backed fighters using the rooftops of residential buildings in the Kuybyshev district of Donetsk as firing positions:

As we reported earlier, the OSCE has also released video footage today, taken by a UAV on May 29, showing active artillery positions immediately adjacent to residential areas of separatist-held Mineralnoye, northeast of Donetsk:
-- Pierre Vaux
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Office of Ukraine's Controversial INTER TV Station Attacked
Video posted online today shows a group of young men setting fire to some tires outside the office of Ukraine's INTER TV channel today: 

This is not the first time INTER has been harassed by those who are unhappy with its content. The TV channel, widely seen as pro-Russian in its editorial slant, is owned by Dmytro Firtash - wealthy oligarch and friend of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych. Firtash lives outside Ukraine as he is wanted on suspicion of bribery.

In February, activists from the far-right Azov organization blocked access to the channel's office in protest of its pro-Kremlin content:

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Day 738: Azov Activists Block Inter Channel HQ As Station Accused Of Supporting Kremlin

BROUGHT TO YOU BY RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY

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Jun 02, 2016 18:31 (GMT)

After the channel showed a group of Russian performers on its New Year's Eve celebration broadcast, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Alexander Turchynov called for the cancelling of INTER's broadcast license, claiming that the channel is consistently used to spread pro-Kremlin propaganda. 

Earlier this week, a document-dump reportedly showed how the Party of Regions, the political party of Yanukovych, used hidden money to buy influence with the police as well as various media outlets: 

Ukraine Today notes that INTER TV was snagged in the documents as having been a recipient of some of that dirty money:

The expenses invested in the politics are itemized, with a total cost amounting to more than USD 66 million. The Party of Regions members spent the money on 'the Party needs' for less than six months in 2012 - everything ranging from buying the electoral votes to ordering custom-made interviews and reports on major Ukraine's TV channels "INTER" and "ICTV".  

The list of those involved is striking and includes: both former and current MPs, ex-ministers, members of the Central Election Commission, top managers of TV channels, heads of polling agencies and political strategists.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
OSCE Films Heavy Artillery Exchanging Fire Next To Populated Area Near Avdeyevka

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) has released video footage showing heavy artillery in use in territory controlled by Russian-backed fighters on the night of May 29, near Donetsk.

The video shows two 2S3 Akatsiya self-propelled, 152 mm howitzers deployed in Mineralnoye, northeast of Donetsk city.

The danger presented by the very location of this deployment, which is a clear violation of the Minsk agreement, is made clear when two blasts are recorded near the artillery position, presumably as a result of Ukrainian fire.

According to the SMM, both self-propelled guns are deployed just 100 metres from a residential area, meaning any incoming fire on their positions, which would be targeted as a response to any outbound fire, could fall on civilians.


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2016-06-02 14:11:32
Shortly afterwards, we see such outbound fire, with two shells fired from the Akatsiyas towards Ukrainian-controlled Avdeyevka.
Here is a map of the wider area:
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2016-06-02 14:11:31
-- Pierre Vaux
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