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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Day 910: August 15, 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.
Nine Now Detained by Russia in Connection with Alleged Crimean Border Incursion; Two Charged

The number of people arrested in connection with alleged incursions earlier this month on the border of Russian-occupied Crimea has increased to nine, Interfax reported, citing a source in Russian law-enforcement.

No names were provided but the latest two detainees were said to be residents of Crimea who had obtained Russian citizenship.

Two of the detainees have already been charged with attempting terrorist attacks, said Interfax. 

Accounts of the incidents and number of detainees have varied in Russian media citing government leaks. 

The initial statement from the Federal Security Service (FSB) did not give a figure for the detainees, and gave only one name, Yevhen Panov, a former ATO volunteer fighter and nuclear plant worker whose friends and family believe he was abducted.

Subsequently, two other names were given, Rydvan Suleimanov, a Crimean Tatar accused of "jihad," and Andrei Zakhtey, bringing the total to three known detainees.

The Kremlin has accused Ukrainian military intelligence of masterminding the incursion. But one of the officers named in a forced TV confession by Panov denies he had any association with intelligence.

Today Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had "undeniable evidence" of Ukrainian intelligence involvement in clashes at the Crimean border, but declined to provide details, Moscow Times reported.

He said Russia was prepared to show the evidence to Western partners but "not for TV," Ren-TV reported. 

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who met with Lavrov and who has urged Ukraine to show restraint since the incident, said he had not seen proof of the incidents and had only heard both the Russian and Ukrainian version of events.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Media Reports Identify of Russian Soldier Killed at Alleged Crimean Border Clash
Obozrevatel' and Vesti-Ukraine, Ukrainian news sites have come up with the name of the Russian soldier reportedly killed in the clash on the border of Russian-occupied Crimea and the Ukrainian mainland. A military blogger, Voyenniy Osvedomitel' (War Informer) has also posted information on VKontakte.

Neither the Ukrainian or Russian governments have confirmed the identity of the soldier reportedly killed.
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The soldier's name was Semyon Sychev, age 22, and he was said to have served in the 247th Paratroopers' Storm Regiment stationed in Stavropol, and also appears to have fought in the Donbass. He served as a mechanic and driver. His friends say he had two wounds which were not fatal, but lost a lot of blood on the way to the hospital. (Some news reports say he died at the age of 30, which appears to be a mistake.)

We were unable to locate the VKontakte account for the soldier killed indicated by Vesti-Ukraine and others under the name "Syoma Sychev" as indicated; the profile of another paratrooper with the same name, age 20, from  Andzhero-Suzhensk is unrelated.

As we reported, according to an FSB leak to Kommersant, the 247th was sent to the north of Crimea to reinforce anti-terrorist operations and reportedly found saboteurs on the night of August 7-8 on the shores of Lake Savash, after another incident the previous night where FSB agents reportedly discovered saboteurs near the Artyomsk border crossing.

A firefight ensued and one paratrooper -- evidently Sychev -- was reported as killed when a bullet landed in his neck above his bullet-proof jacket. This version of the story told by the FSB doesn't sound like the two non-threatening wounds later described by friends.

According to Vesti-Ukraine, which studied Sychev's profile on Vkontakte, Sychev was born in Primalkinskoye in the Prokladnensky District of Kabardino-Balkaria in Russia's North Caucasus. His regiment has 1,500 soldiers, armor and self-propelled Nona artillery. They took part in the second Chechen war and also the Georgian war.

Vesti-Ukraine says that Sychev's account on VKontakte shows a picture of him dated August 1, 2014 with a geotag near the village of Golovinka in the Neklinovsky District of Rostov Region, 50 kilometers from the Ukrainian border and 75 kilometers fro Amvrosievka. As we reported in January 2015, Golovinka is a large staging area near the Ukrainian border. used by the Russian military prior.

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Another photo shows him just a stone's throw away from the Ukrainian border near the village of Chkalova in Myasnikovsky District in Russia. 

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Yet another photo taken in February 2015 shows him with a buddy wearing a skull mask. Neither of them have identifying chevrons and it is not clear where they are. 
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A photo of Sychev also turns up in the album of Maksim Maskimov who was in the Somali battalion of the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic" who was reportedly among the police who broke up the Maidan protests earlier. Sychev, Maksimov and an unidentified man are sitting in the October Park in Rostov. The two other men are bandaged and were wounded, and Sychev himself, wearing his paratrooper's undershirt but flip-flops may have also been in the hospital.

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-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Increased Russia Military Convoys on the Move in Past Week

As we reported last week, there was increased Russian military convoy movement reported in and around Russian-occupied Crimea.

At that time, Oleg Slobodyan, chief of the Ukrainian Border Guard Service,  told the 112 television channel there was increased Russian military activity in the north  occupied Crimea, near the frontier with the Ukrainian mainland:

Russian military trucks covered with tarpaulins, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles and troops have been deployed along the frontier. 

Slobodyan also reported that Russian security forces continue to illuminate the Ukrainian-controlled side of the frontier with search lights and flares are being fired at night.

However Russian heavy artillery and rocket launchers have not been observed on the administrative border, Slobodyan said, while noting that the range of rocket artillery systems could mean they are deployed further back, out of sight.

Then on Saturday, Slobodyan reported that he saw no more activity than usual on the border in the areas around the crossing at Artyomsk (site of the reported clashes), Chongar and others.

Meanwhile, the sightings of convoys last week were in different areas to the south and east, not in the north. 

A video titled "Crimea. Kerch. Russian Military Convoy" was uploaded on August 11 to YouTube by the Center for Study of Insurgent Movements.

The video's metadata shows it was uploaded August 11, 2016 as indicated and there do not appear to be any copies of it in reverse image search before that day.

We have geolocated the video to Kirova Street in Kerch in Russian-occupied Crimea here on Yandex maps.

Here is a scene from the video showing the large, rectangular white building and the park at the crossroads.

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Here is the same scene from Yandex street view:

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Another video uploaded August 10 was said to be taken near Belogorsk (Bilohirsk) in Russian-occupied Crimea.

The metadata in the video shows it was uploaded August 10 and there were no copies of it prior to that date.

A Ukrainian blogger Zapiski Okhotnika ("Notes of a Hunger"), @galandecZP, said it was taken near Belogorsk and posted a photo of the road by the gas station. The exact coordinates were not shown.

Translation: Colnvoy of military armo near Belogorsk (taken near the village of Donskoye) Auguat 10, 2016

The driver passes an orange Formula gas station in the video. According to the list of Formula locations near Belogorsk, and a photo from Panoramio, the convoy may have been at this location on Yandex maps, or possibly this one, closer to Donskoye.

This map view and street view show no white fencing along this road (it is dated 2012 on Yandex).

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But Google maps for this area, dated in 2016 shows a white fence.
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A driver named Slava Lim uploaded a video on August 9 titled "Armor On Guard of the Peninsula," according to the metadata. The video does not appear before this date in reverse search.

Lim writes: 

"By the way yesterday, after that idiotic provocation on the border August 7, on the road to the Simferopol airport, heading toward me (in the direction of Dzhankoy) was a armored convoy and something very powerful on wheels."

He went on to make a number of hateful remarks about Ukrainians.

We were unable to verify the location.

InformResistance, a Ukrainian war reporting site, wrote yesterday, August 14:

We are talking about a battalion tactical group of Russian Federation paratroopers, reinforced by divisions from one of the motorized brigades of the infantry troops. Furthermore, we can speak about the creation of an artillery group from several artillery groups and a certain concentration of means for air attack (primarily army aviation). On the whole, there are up to 30 tanks, about 60-70 armored combat vehicles (not counting the BBMs which brought the divisions there earlier) and about 40 units of artillery. This concerns the straits and the areas directly adjacent to them. As for the whole group depoyed in the north of Crimea, information about it is constantly updating and changing in connection with the permanent deployment of forces and the funds of the occupier.

No pictures or videos were supplied.

On August 13, a Ukrainian blogger wrote that a military convoy was passing through Sevastopol and uploaded a photo; the picture was shown first by Eugene Dokukin on Facebook.

Dokunin is head of the Ukrainian Cyber Forces, a hacktivist group fighting Russian cyber warfare.

A VKontakte reader of the blogger Voyenny Osvedomitel' said the armor was always there. Others said that all the pictures shown didn't constitute enough to make an invasion.


В Севастополе на некоторых направлениях движения сегодня заторы...

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Aug 15, 2016 12:45 (GMT)

The photo is titled "Traffic jams today in Sevastopol in several directions." Some readers argued there was a construction site nearby that was also causing slow traffic, not just the convoys. 

UPDATE: Dokunin said this picture was taken by a webcam that looks out on the intersection of ul. Khrustaleva and Gorodskoye Highway, located on Yandex maps here. Here is a screen grab from Yandex street view:

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Krustalova Street and Gorodskoye Highway in Sevastopol
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The screen grab captured live activity from the web cam. When we viewed the web cam several times later, we didn't see any military vehicles so it does not seem likely they are always parked there, but were passing through.

Zapiski Okhotnika wrote of another video uploaded August 12 by an Instagram user denisgorb headed toward Krasnodar which was by the railroad crossing in Voronezhskaya.

Krasnaya Moskva sent a photo-correspondent to a training camp of Russian soldiers at an undisclosed location, implied to be near the Ukrainian border. The article says that these soldiers, equipped with Igla and Strela anti-aircraft missiles, are "why Ukrainian planes no longer fly there." The story has a credit for "Viktor Yasny" but he appears to be the author, not the photographer.

A photo correspondent with an account named "Special correspondent Oleg" uploaded the same photos to his Vkontakte account and complained that the editor had cropped them.

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We have not seen any further reports of Russian military convoys in the last two days. 

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick