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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukraine Liveblog Day 111

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.
Are the Cossacks Fleeing Slavyansk?

The Russian photojournalist Anatoly Shariy has uploaded a video to YouTube today showing the effects of shelling in Slavyansk.

His photo-essay can be seen here.

The Russian Cossacks who came to help their fellow Russians in southeastern Ukraine have been fleeing the shelling of Slavyansk, Igor Strelkov (Girkin), the commander of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" was quoted as saying in a blog said to be his, reported.

Strelkov has been quoted on social media recently as complaining about the failure to get more weapons and reinforcements from the Kremlin.

The LiveJournal blog under the user name "etoonda" has a number of posts "from Strelok," the nom de guerre that Strelkov, a former GRU colonel has been using. We could not confirm that this is his diary. The Interpreter has translated an excerpt from June 6 at 11:50 am:

The shelling began at 9:00 am and continued practically without a break. They are banging on Semyonovka and the factories on the outskirts from literally everything -- a 240-mm mortar-launcher, a 152-mm Akatsia, a Grad, and so on. We have nothing to retaliate with - the enemy has placed his artillery beyond the limits of our few mortar launchers. And competing in fire with such a powerful artillery group is useless.

Starting the day before yesterday, practically all the "glorious Cossacks" began fleeing from the direction of Krasny Liman (both locals as well as those from the Russian Federation). During the night, I ordered the commander of the Krasny Liman regiment Yeryoma to return to their position. The "Cossack general" (who had run from Liman practically to Antratsit to another hero "Cossack General" Kozintsin) did not fullfill my order. Instead of himself, he sent about 10 people who refused to dig trenches and stated that they were there only for "accompanying refugees to Antratsit." Why the hell would we need "such hansdome men"? To raise a panic? Our commander of the detachment immediately sent them back to the rear -- there isn't any hope at all from them, they are only capable of raising a panic... We will hold the positions ourselves. We have enough forces. Why the devil did hundreds of "Don and Kuban heroes" come here anyway? What are they defending in Antratsit? Who are they fighting? With the local chicken livestock and tanks of vodka? Nothing has changed in 20-odd years in our "renewed kozlyachestvo" [a play on words between "Kozachestvo," which means "the Cossack community", and "kolyachestva," which is based on the word "kozyol" or goat, which is a term of derision--The Interpreter]. Dressed-up riff-raff and looters have run the show and have gone on running it. 

Then later at 22:50 he had another post:

Constant shelling. They bombed the chemical plant -- apparently they were looking for the sulfur stores as something to light on fire. Now they are shooting from 152--mm Howitzer at the village of Cherevkovka (suburb of Slavyansk) -- three private homes are on fire, the gas pipe is broken and smoking.

The tanks have been driven out of Semyonovka, twice the Ukes' position was fired on with mortars, we caused them losses (at the reinforced post at the Slavyansk stella something was burning with oil).

Strelkov then uploaded a video to YouTube showing his men kissing icons before battle.

The Cossacks are portrayed as volunteers who rallied to the cause of Donbass separatism on their own. But it is helpful to recall that Putin passed a law in 2005 recognizing the 600,000 Cossacks as an armed formation and officially authorizing them to guard Russia's borders, support law and order and even fight terrorism. He also decreed that they be funded from the state budget. reported that shelling had resumed Sunday on the outskirts of Slavyansk and Krmatarosk, citing

It also cited a RIA Novosti report that the gas pipeline in Slavyansk was damaged in fighting, but a city council representative said that repair was under way and it was not in danger of explosion.

The Twitter account Sloviansk, which describes itself as "a microblog about the glorious Ukrainian resort city of Slavyansk and Donetsk Region" also reported heavy shelling:

Translation: @Sloviansk: We counted 50 explosions in 2 minutes. A verry powerful shelling of the region of Semyonovka.
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Will Putin Disavow the Russian Separatists in Ukraine?

Paul Goble writes at Windows on Eurasia of an article that has appeared by Russian analyst Nikolay Mitrokhin indicating that Russian President Vladimir Putin may distance himself from Russian separatists fighting in Ukraine as he seeks to appear a "peace-maker" in upcoming talks with Ukraine's new President Petro Poroshenko. Goble writes:

Russians of various kinds who are fighting on Moscow’s behalf in eastern Ukraine and who are heroes in the eyes of many Russians at home face a future they don’t expect: When Moscow does resolve the Ukrainian crisis, the Kremlin will disown and arrest them lest they become a threat to itself, Nikolay Mitrokhin says.

Indeed, he suggests in a post yesterday, the Russian authorities are already making plans to do just that, an indication of the cynicism of those who pushed such Russians into the fight and of the fears the authorities have about what could happen if there were a Donetsk-style revolt within the Russian Federation.

“The day when the arrests of Cossacks and other organizers and participants of the current ‘rising’ in Donbass” and by Moscow rather than by Kyiv “are much closer than this may appear to many who have begun to see as the fate of ‘the strugglers for the interests of the Russian people.”

The FSB’s Center E [Extremism] has already been conducting a census of those in Russia who are prepared to fight in situations like Donetsk and Luhansk, Mitrokhin says, but it is doing this less to identify new foot soldiers and leaders for such efforts than to make sure the Russian authorities know who might rise against them and thus use this to divide and disorder the latter.

The Interpreter has translated in full the paragraph about the "census" to provide more detail:

What do we have now? All throughout Russia, there was a census of those who are unhappy with the existing world order and of mentally-ill who have gone through wars who are now ready to take up arms if needed. Several meritorious fighters from the "couch forces" have been added to those who are prepared for real action offline. These people voluntarily outed themselves to intelligence agencies who controlled the recruitment and dispatch of enthusiasts to the Eastern front.

Officers of Center E and the FSB should have been "smiling" that their most dangerous clients, from whom unpleasant surprises could be expected, were happily heading off to fulfill dangerous assignments of state. And in fact only for the opportunity to shoot from real MANPADS which were waiting to be put to use in warehouses in the South Military District.

The calculation that quite a few of these heroes would remain on the battle fields, and many of those who survive would be until the end of their lives more concerned about medications and crutches than politics turned out to be accurate. Of course, the utilization of the fascizoid part of Putin's enemies in this way was far from the first goal of the Donbass campaign. The formulation of the rights to new territorial expansion for Russia and other great  geopolitical agreements were far more important.

But splitting the opposition through the "khokhlosrach" (a term combining the pejorative term Russians use for Ukrainians, "khokhly" with the verb "shitting") as polemics regarding Ukraine in the Russian segment of the social networks are called, and use of its results in favor of the powers that be, was -- it has to be admitted -- a smart move.

So far, there's been one case of an opposition member who took part in the anti-Putin demonstrations on Bolotnaya Square in May 2012, who went to support the separatists in Slavyansk, suddenly finding himself arrested two years after the fact when he returned to Moscow.