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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
Ukraine Liveblog Day 60: The Day After the Geneva Agreement

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
Separatists Hold Mayor of Slaviansk
Pravda.com.ua reports that a group of separatist gunmen are holding Mayor Nelya Shtepa. The gunmen say that the mayor is resigning for health reasons.
The story appears to have changed as the day went on.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian gunmen appear to be taking new buildings and checkpoints in Slaviansk. Graham Phillips, who is a freelancer for RT, narrates this video which was taken earlier in the day:

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Putin's Office Threatens To Mobilize

In a significant escalation of rhetoric, not only does Putin's press secretary admit that there are Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, but he says that they are there to respond if Russia is driven "into a corner." RFE/RL reports:

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has confirmed that Russia does have troops near the Ukrainian border and that some of those forces are stationed there "on a permanent basis."

Peskov said additional forces are in the area along Russia's border with Ukraine but only "as reinforcement aganst (sic) the background of what is going on in Ukraine."

Peskov also said Washington's threats of additional sanctions against Russia if Moscow does not adhere to the terms of an agreement reached yesterday in Gevena between top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and European Union were "absolutely unacceptable."

"We can mobilize our whole society if someone starts driving Russia into a corner," he said. "Thank God, it is impossible to drive Russia into a corner."

Previous to this, the Russian line has been that the troops were there as part of drills that are unrelated to the crisis in Ukraine. To our knowledge, the troop deployment has not changed, just the way Moscow is now talking about them.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
NATO Commander Says Russian Troops Are In East Ukraine
The Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, has stated quite clearly that he believes that Russian troops are already operating in eastern Ukraine and are in fact leading the pro-Russian militias:

It’s hard to fathom that groups of armed men in masks suddenly sprang forward from the population in eastern Ukraine and systematically began to occupy government facilities.  It’s hard to fathom because it’s simply not true.  What is happening in eastern Ukraine is a military operation that is well planned and organized and we assess that it is being carried out at the direction of Russia.                

President Barack Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister David Cameron, President François Hollande, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and many others have publicly stated their belief that Russian forces are behind the events in Ukraine.  I would like to provide some observations from our analytical experts to help explain why I strongly agree with these world leaders.

  • The pro-Russian "activists” in eastern Ukraine exhibit tell-tale military training and equipment and work together in a way that is consistent with troops who are part of a long-standing unit, not spontaneously stood up from a local militia.
  • The weapon handling discipline and professional behavior of these forces is consistent with a trained military force.  Rifle muzzles are pointed down, fingers not on triggers, but rather laid across trigger mechanisms.
  • Coordinated use of tear gas and stun grenades against targeted buildings indicates a level of training that exceeds a recently formed militia.
  • Video of these forces at checkpoints shows they are attentive, on their feet, focused on their security tasks, and under control of an apparent leader.  This contrasts with typical militia or mob checkpoints, where it’s common to see people sitting, smoking, and so forth.
  • The way these forces target government buildings, hit them in coordinated strikes and quickly secure the surrounding area with roadblocks and barricades is similar to what we’ve seen in Crimea.  Again, indicative of a professional military force, acting under direction and leadership, not a spontaneous militia.
  • Finally, the weapons and equipment they carry are primarily Russian army issue.  This is not the kind of equipment that civilians would be likely to be able to get their hands on in large numbers.

Any one of the points above taken alone would not be enough to come to a conclusion on this issue, but taken in the aggregate, the story is clear.  

His post also provides other news stories that support his case, and it seems the BBC is working on compiling video evidence as well.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russia Agrees With the West in Geneva, But Redefines the Nouns

The Russian Foreign Ministry, via state-owned news outlet ITAR-TASS, says Washington is trying to "whitewash" Kiev's actions:

Washington's assessments of the four-party meeting on the deescalation of tensions in Ukraine are highly disappointing, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a commentary Friday.

"The assessments of the April 17 meeting of Russian, US, Ukrainian and EU representatives that are coming from Washington are highly disappointing as the American side is again trying to whitewash the course of action of the incumbent Kiev authorities who are set to suppress by force the protest activity of the population of southeastern regions where people are expressing legal indignation over encroachments on their rights," the commentary says.

"On the face of it, blame for the Ukrainian crisis and its current deterioration is groundlessly apportioned to Russia in spite of the businesslike tonality and absence of propagandistic cliches at the talks in Geneva," the ministry said.

Let's take a closer look at a few of these statements. Russia is calling Ukraine's attempts to defend government buildings from armed pro-Russian gunmen "suppression by force" of "legal indignation." In other words, just as we predicted, though both sides, Russia and the West, agree that illegal activity needs to cease, Russia calls the activities of armed gunmen who have taken over government buildings and erected roadblocks "legal."

RFE/RL adds another note:

The statement said, "It's clear when we talk about disarmament, we mean first of all confiscating weapons from the militants of the Right Sector and other pro-fascist groups."

So are the Ukrainian armed forces "pro-fascist groups" according to Russia's thinking?

By now, long-time observers of Putin's behavior see a familiar pattern -- Russia often agrees with the rest of the world on principle, but their definitions of nouns change. When Assad in Syria pledged to withdraw his troops from his cities and cease all attacks on civilians, nothing changed. But both Russia and Syria said that Assad's attacks were not a crackdown on civilians and protesters but legal and justified actions against "terrorists." And while each time the international community (and the media) get excited over brief glimpses of diplomatic breakthroughs, all that really happens is that a whole lot of time is wasted in the process.

For more on how Russia uses this strategy to buy time from the international community, see our investigation:

A Russian Plan For Syria Is Two Years Too Late: A brief history of Russia's defense of Assad.


The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
The Latest OSCE Report On the Situation in Ukraine

The following is a statement from the OSCE, released by press release:

In Donetsk at 13:30 on 17 April, the team observed the occupied oblast administration building with some 150 people inside the barricades. Russian television programmes were broadcast there, including President Putin's live question-and-answer session. The city administration office, also occupied by opponents of the central government, appeared to be working normally. At 18:00, following information about a disruptive protest at the Donetsk International Airport, the team visited the airport to verify the situation on the ground. In its assessment, the overall situation was normal and calm. At the departures hall, the team observed the presence of around 30 people of different age groups with St. George’s ribbons on their clothes and one man with a “Donetsk People’s Republic” flag on his shoulders.

The Donetsk team spoke also to the local Rabbi, who confirmed media reports about anti-Jewish fliers signed by the self-declared “People’s Governor of Donbas” (the Ukrainian and Russian name for the area covering the Donetsk and Luhansk regions). The text called upon local Jewish people to present themselves for registration, threatening deportation and confiscation of property if they failed to do so. According to the Rabbi, on 15 April, three or four masked men arrived on foot at the synagogue and handed several of these fliers to people located on the premises. They returned later that night by car and handed out more of the fliers. The self-declared governor denied that he and his office were responsible for the flier.

The team observed armed Ukrainian police watching the activities of the traffic police in Volnovakha(approximately 60 km south of Donetsk).

In Mariupol, as of 11:25, there were no helicopters or aircraft seen flying over the city. The town appeared to be functioning normally. The Mariupol Administration building remained occupied, with the flag of the “Donetsk Republic” flying on top of the eastern structure and the flag of the former Soviet Union flying on top of the west building. Mariupol’s Mayor claimed that the City Administration building had been occupied by 40 fighters assisted by Russian intelligence officers, and that most of the Mariupol and Donbas population were in favor of significant decentralization of Ukraine but did not support separatism.

The team left Mariupol, travelling to the Ministry of Interior Internal Forces compound, arriving at 13:12. Outside the entrance of the compound there was a government jeep which had been fired upon and was damaged both inside and out. There were traces of blood observed on the outside of the right doors and the rear tailgate of the vehicle. The metal gates to the compound entrance had at some point been removed and discarded to the side of the road. The entrance had been blocked by two large government trucks, parked facing into the compound. Upon entering the compound, the team observed that the front of both trucks had bullet holes in both the window and body. The team observed evidence that Molotov cocktails had been used against the compound, and there was one building that had burned to the ground and was still smoldering. At 15:00, the team went to the Emergency Medical Hospital. According to its director, five patients were brought to this facility, all with gunshot wounds. He also checked the daily registry for Mariupol and found that on 16 April, a total of 16 people were treated for wounds in various medical facilities. According to the Ministry of Interior and the Mayor, there were three fatalities. The Medical Director confirmed one; however, he could not personally confirm any others as he was only working at the emergency hospital. At around 15:30 the team arrived at Mariupol Airport. Upon approaching the terminal, there appeared to be no more activity than had been seen the day before, with Ukrainian flags flying. However, upon closer observation, four Ukrainian military helicopters were seen parked on the tarmac.

The general situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson and Odessa remained calm and quiet, as assessed by the monitoring teams. On the main roads in the vicinity of Odessa an increasing number of roadblocks were seen as compared to previous days. They were manned by unarmed or armed police, often accompanied by local volunteers supporting a unitary state structure for Ukraine.

The situation continues to be calm in Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv. According to a representative of Lviv’s local Russian community, its situation is “precarious” but far from being dangerous at the moment. He noted an absence of any Russian-speaking pre-schools in the region.

The centre of Kyiv was generally calm, and a regular police presence was observed throughout the day in the city centre. The team observed the behaviour of football fans during the match between Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk and spoke to a Shakhtar football team security officer, who confirmed that despite the Donetsk team winning in Kyiv and the fans of both teams being arch rivals, there was not a single clash or incident of violence among the fans and, as he put it, “there was a tremendous sense of unity, with ‘Ukraine – One country’ slogans chanted by fans of both teams during the game on a regular basis.
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