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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 909: August 14, 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
Intense Fighting In Ukraine, But Kiev Downplays Russian Threat

As we've been reporting this week, there are contradicting descriptions of the nature of Russian military buildup in Crimea and on the border with Ukraine. 

Take this report from The Institute For The Study Of War: 

An ongoing Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders may indicate preparations for conventional military conflict.  It certainly marks a dramatic escalation of tensions that will have significant repercussions in Ukraine.  Russia has deployed additional military forces and systems to Ukraine’s northern, eastern, and southern borders.  


Institute for the Study of War

An ongoing Russian military build-up on Ukraine's borders may indicate preparations for conventional military conflict. It certainly marks a dramatic escalation of tensions that will have significant repercussions in Ukraine. Russia has deployed additional military forces and systems to Ukraine's northern, eastern, and southern borders.

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Aug 15, 2016 08:11 (GMT)

Meanwhile, fighting in eastern Ukraine has been intensifying for months, but has grown sharply worse in recent weeks. The latest report from the Ukrainian intelligence service, released Sunday, August 14, says that three Russian soldiers were killed in battle and another seven wounded over the previous 24 hours, according to Unian.info. The Ukrainian military reports that they suffered no fatalities, though three of their soldiers were killed during that same time period. Russian-backed fighters reportedly launched a total of 56 attacks on Saturday,

Ukraine's intelligence agency's report also suggests large numbers of desertions among the Russian-backed fighters, speculatively due to their heavy losses. 

Ukraine Today reports:

"The units of the 1st Army Corps of the Russian Armed Forces suffer a growing number of deserters - armed troops - mostly among those who had criminal records and were released early from prison under the special mobilization program. The reasons for increased desertion include (militant) significant casualties, a strict system of forcing troops to participate in hostilities in the temporarily occupied territories of eastern Ukraine, as well as regular informal fees charged by militant commanders, including removal of stolen property," reads a statement. 

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Desertion cases increase among Russian-backed militants in Donbas

Pro-Russian rebels sit in their car with a heavy machine gun in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Sept. 7, 2014 (AP Photo) Heavy losses may be one of key reasons More and more troops reportedly desert ranks of combined Russian-backed separatist forces fighting in eastern Ukraine , Ukrainian military intelligence reported on Sunday, August 14, on its Facebook page.

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Aug 15, 2016 08:35 (GMT)
And yet, yesterday the Ukrainian government said that they have not seen a Russian buildup on the border:

And today the Ukrainian border service released a statement that the number of Russians crossing the border into the Donbass region, occupied by Russian-backed proxies, has decreased. Unian reports:

"In 2014, there were more than 2.5 million Russians who came to Ukraine. Last year their number almost halved, and in the six months of the current year, over 600,000 citizens of the Russian Federation crossed our border. The dynamics have remained at last year's level," Nazarenko told the Ukrainian Glavcom online publication.

The Ukrainian government may be picking their words carefully in order to downplay the Russian threat or perhaps deescalate the situation. For instance, in the report cited above, this only deals with all Russians who crossed the border, not just armed soldiers. Or they may not believe that the Russian activity is beyond what Ukraine has gotten used to witnessing over the last two years. Still, the independently-corroboratable evidence suggests the former of the two options -- the Ukrainian government may be preparing for a war militarily, but it appears to be trying to defuse tensions rhetorically. 

Meanwhile, an independent group,  Informatsiynyi Sprotyv, is warning that the Russian buildup in Crimea is real and consists of paratroopers and motorized rifle brigades. Ukraine Today reports:

"In addition, we can say about the establishment of an artillery group and several groups of army aviation. The general amount is up to 30 tanks, around 60-70 armoured vehicles, around 40 artillery units," said Kostiantyn Mashovets, Informatsiynyi Sprotyv coordinator.

-- James Miller

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