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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Liveblog Day 123

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.
US Government Sanctions Additional 7 Persons for Ukraine

The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned an additional seven persons "for threatening the territorial integrity of Ukraine", the department announced 20 June on its web site.

They are all pro-Russian separatists active in the southeast of Ukraine.

Interestingly, at the top of the list is Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the self-proclaimed "people's mayor of Slavyansk," who was reportedly arrested and executed last week by his comrades in the "Donetsk People's Republic."

The following is the list of those sanctioned, bringing the total to date of persons sanction for the Ukraine conflict to 41 persons and 19 companies in Russia, Russian-occupied Crimea, and southeastern Ukraine.

Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, a separatist leader, has declared that the rebels have adopted a “take- no-prisoners” approach with future clashes with the Ukrainian security forces, claiming his men will “kill them all.” He also publically claimed his men would take all necessary measures to disrupt the Ukrainian elections in May. Ponomaryov is the former self-proclaimed “people’s mayor” of Slovyansk who declared himself mayor after leading a group of armed separatists in an assault on the Slovyansk mayor’s office in April. The town of Slovyansk has since become one of the centers of the separatist movement, and has been taken over by armed pro-Russia rebels.

Denis Pushilin is a leader of a group calling itself the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” which has seized government buildings across eastern Ukraine, declared itself to be a sovereign state, and requested that it be allowed to join the Russian Federation. Pushilin has overseen an uprising that has seized town halls, police stations, and other buildings in towns across Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Pushilin stated that he and his followers would not release the buildings they seized until the Ukrainian government vacated its government buildings and the Donetsk region got an independence referendum. At a May press conference, Pushilin also stated that civilian and military authorities independent of Kyiv would be formed in the Donetsk region following the results of the illegitimate referendum on the region’s status in May.  He further stated that the presence of any Ukrainian military remaining in the Donetsk region after the announcement of the referendum’s results would be considered illegal.

Andrey Purgin describes himself as the co-head of a council running the separatist government in Donetsk. He advocated for the illegitimate May referendum and the federalization of Ukraine and took part in the storming of the Donetsk regional administration building earlier this year. Purgin founded the pro-Russian “Republic of Donetsk” organization in December 2005. The group’s activities were forbidden by a Ukrainian court, which considered them to be directed at the territorial disintegration of Ukraine.

Igor Girkin (who is also known as Igor Strelkov) is the self-described “commander-in-chief of the Donetsk People’s Republic” who controls a group of armed separatists in Slovyansk. Girkin is responsible for the abduction of military observers in Ukraine, and an attack on the Slovyansk Internal Affairs Administration and the 25th Air Mobile Brigade from whom he stole a large cache of weapons.

Valery Bolotov has proclaimed himself governor of the separatist-controlled Luhansk region and has publically declared war on the government in Kyiv.  Bolotov took direction from Girkin to hold a sham referendum in Luhansk in May.

Sergei Menyailo is the de facto “acting governor” of Sevastopol. He assisted in the formation of Sevastopol’s self-defense squads, which played a key role in facilitating Russia’s occupation of the Crimea region of Ukraine and were later entered into the ranks of the Russian military. Menyailo is part of a commission established to ensure the effectiveness of Russian federal executive bodies in Crimea.

Valery Kaurov is the self-described “president of Novorossiya” and has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to deploy troops to the territory described as Novorossiya. He has supported separatist activities in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk territories.

As a result of today’s action, any assets of the individuals designated today that are within U.S. jurisdiction must be frozen. Additionally, transactions by U.S. persons or within the United States involving the individuals designated today are generally prohibited.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
State Department 'Confident' Russia 'Sent Tanks and Rocket Launchers into Eastern Ukraine'

The following is a partial transcript of the noon briefing for the press at the State Department concerning the subject of Ukraine and Russia, which has just been distributed.

QUESTION: Ukraine --

QUESTION: Has there been – has anyone asked for the assistance that you offered?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of, but we’ve just offered to be helpful if we can be helpful.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Earlier today the Russian ambassador to the United Nations denied that Russian armed vehicles were crossing into Ukraine. How do you respond to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I have a couple of updated details here, so let me run through those for you.

We are confident, as we said last Friday, that Russia last week sent takes [sic] and rocket launchers from a deployment site in southwest Russia into eastern Ukraine. We have information that additional tanks have been prepared for departure from this same deployment site, and that’s more recently. We also have information that Russia has accumulated artillery at a deployment site in southwest Russia, including a type of artillery utilized by Ukrainian forces but no longer in Russia’s active forces, and believe Russia may soon provide this equipment to separatist fighters.

And we are obviously closely watching what we are seeing on the ground. I would also point you to the comments of NATO Secretary General Rasmussen yesterday, who said we are seeing a new Russian military buildup of at least a few thousand more troops deployed at the Ukrainian border, and there are troop maneuvers near the border with Ukraine.

And separately, we have our own information that Russia has redeployed military forces to its border with Ukraine. This is the closest Russian troops have come to the Ukrainian territory since their invasion of Crimea.

So that is our view from the United States.

QUESTION: The Russians say that the troop buildup that you and NATO have spoken about is simply a border guard reinforcing and that they need to have – they need to be reinforced because of the flow of – in some places, the flow of people – refugees, some of them – across the border. You don’t buy that? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I think one step we’ve been asking President Putin and the Russians to be supportive of is securing the border, and what we’re seeing is a flow of individuals into Ukraine with materials and equipment and tanks, as we’ve been speaking about. In terms of the refugee numbers, we’ve looked into Russian reports of large numbers of refugees fleeing Russia and have seen no evidence to --

QUESTION: No, no, no. Fleeing Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Fleeing for – fleeing to Russia, sorry, fleeing to Russia, and have seen no evidence to substantiate them. According to the Russian Federal Migration Service itself, just over 5,000 people from Ukraine have applied for asylum in Russia since January. And the numbers – some Russian sources are claiming numbers more like 100,000. So we’re talking about the last six months, I guess, since January. And many ethnic Russians from Ukraine have family in Russia. Some may be staying with them, but neither Ukrainian border guards nor international organizations operating in the area have reported any large outflows of refugees to Russia to substantiate their claim.

QUESTION: Okay. So but – excuse me – apparently there was a meeting this morning of their – whatever the Russian Government committee is that deals with refugees, and they’re talking – I think they – unless I’m wrong, I think they were talking about 9,000 or something like that. But to the best of your knowledge, you’re saying that you have seen the only – you’ve seen nothing like this, that there is no mass exodus or even close to thousands that are crossing the border from Ukraine into Russia, fleeing their homes or fighting? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Correct. And it’s not – obviously, just to clarify, though, it’s not the – we’re not monitoring this ourselves, obviously. But the Ukrainian border guards are as well as international organizations who are in the area.

QUESTION: Okay. Does that mean that you don’t have any concern about the situation in terms of what it means for civilians in the east right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think certainly we have concern, and – but we think the most effective and powerful step the Russians can take is to call on separatists to lay down their arms and to help secure the border. And obviously those are the steps that we think would reduce the violence and tension in the east.

QUESTION: Okay. Earlier today a senior official was telling people that in addition to what you just said about more tanks, additional tanks being prepared for – to be transferred to the separatists, that some, in fact, as of yesterday had actually moved away from this – from the site in southwest Russia. Do you know (1) how many, and (2) in what direction they were moving – I mean, and moving toward Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, to be clear, we have information about – which I referred to specifically – about preparing for departure from the same deployment site. We’ve seen reports about additional Russian tanks, rocket launchers, and other military equipment crossing the border into Luhansk. I don’t have specific numbers, and those are reports. The other details are more confirmed internally.

QUESTION: But – okay, I’m a little confused now. So you don’t know that there are – that the tanks have actually left this site in southwest Russia?

MS. PSAKI: There are reports that they have. We know that they are preparing to depart, so – but the reports are reports. I don’t have anything in --


MS. PSAKI: -- confirmation of those. There are reports out there that we’ve seen.

QUESTION: In his conversation with Foreign Minister Fabius, you said that Secretary Kerry talked about the Poroshenko ceasefire, which he has now ordered a start of. The Russians have come back just within the last half hour or so and said that this looks like an ultimatum and doesn’t really look like a ceasefire. Can you be more – can you elaborate on – more on what you think, what you – what the Administration thinks of the ceasefire proposal, whether it’s an ultimatum or it’s a challenge and not really a ceasefire?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a unilateral ceasefire, and certainly they need a partner in order to – for it to be effective. But these are steps taken by President Poroshenko and the Ukrainian Government to provide a path to de-escalation. Obviously, the Russian separatists – or Russian-backed separatists – would need to be a partner in that, as would the Russians, in order to – for it to be effective on both sides.

QUESTION: Okay. And then have you seen since – recognizing it’s only a couple hours old now – but have you seen any indication from the Russians that they’re willing to now take steps to – that you think would de-escalate the situation?

MS. PSAKI: We have not seen new steps, and, in fact, I’ve pointed to some escalatory steps.

QUESTION: So in fact, they’re doing the opposite of what you say they should be doing?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: All right. And still – there’s still no trigger, though, for these sectoral sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we announced the sanctioning of seven new individuals this morning. Early next week, as I noted, the Secretary will be at the NATO ministerial meeting where Ukraine will be a big part of that conversation, and there will also be a range of meetings among Europeans next week, so we certainly expect these issues to be a big topic of conversation.

QUESTION: So is this ambassador – this Russian ambassador to the United Nations, is he lying?

MS. PSAKI: I will let you put labels out there, Lucas, but I conveyed to you what we know as the United States.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I don’t know that you’ll be able to answer this, and you may want to just --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- refer it to Treasury, where I’ve already asked the question --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and not gotten an answer. The seven individuals who were identified in the Treasury release and in a separate kind of fact sheet about them, and it has information like dates of birth, in some cases places of birth. Only one of the seven – for only one of the seven is the citizenship of the individual specified. That person is Russian. Who are the other – what is the nationality of the other six?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question. I don’t know it off the top of my head. I will follow up with them and see if that’s information that we can provide. As was noted in there with the details in the press release, it’s more related to the actions, and some of them are Russian-backed, so – but I will see if there’s more we can provide.

QUESTION: Jen, who’s taking escalatory measures, the Russians or the Russian separatists?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly the Russian separatists. But again, there’s no question in our view that Russia has the ability to call on them to lay down their arms and to secure the border, and there’s more that they can do to promote a de-escalatory process.

QUESTION: I have one more on Russia.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead. Go ahead, Ali.

QUESTION: In Russia, in the region, there was sort of the latest example of Russia’s fabrication of stories. I would also defer to Matt on this line of questioning, because it involved him, but –

QUESTION: I just wanted to stay clear of it, but go ahead.

QUESTION: But I just want to get your take on it, and what do you make of that story that was out there today.

MS. PSAKI: Well, to be clear, and I used social media to tweet about this earlier today, but there was a report about comments I made that were comments I never made, and so I would first clarify that. But I would say broadly speaking that the tactics of fabricated news stories and a range of vicious personal attacks that I and others have been a victim of are not steps you take when you’re operating from a position of strength. And there’s no question that the more we talk about our support for a strong, sovereign Ukraine, the greater the attacks become, so I will leave it to others to draw their own conclusions on that front.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
White House Welcomes Poroshenko's Unilateral Ceasefire, Calls on Russia to Pull Back Its Forces

The White House Office of the Press Secretary released the following this evening. The statement is not on and was distributed by former Amb. Michael McFaul on his Facebook page.

Readout of the President’s Calls with Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Hollande of France

The President spoke separately today with Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Hollande of France to consult about the crisis in Ukraine.

The leaders welcomed President Poroshenko’s announcement of a unilateral ceasefire and reemphasized the need for Russia to pull back its destabilizing presence of military forces on the border of Ukraine, stop the flow of weapons and militants across the border, and exercise its influence among armed separatists to lay down their weapons and renounce violence. They agreed that should Russia fail to take immediate, concrete steps to deescalate the situation in eastern Ukraine, the United States and the European Union would coordinate additional steps to impose costs on Russia. The leaders also expressed concern about the situation in Iraq and the threat posed by ISIL.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Heavy Gunfire at Izvarino Border Crossing

This video purportedly shows heavy gunfire and flares near the Izvarino border crossing between Ukraine and Russia:

The footage claims, and appears to be, taken much later at night than the incident described in the ITAR-TASS report we posted on previously. 

We have not been able to precisely geolocate this footage however the title claims it was filmed at the Russian customs station.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Report of Attack on Ukrainian Border Station at Izvarino

The Russian state-owned news agency ITAR-TASS reports that "unidentified gunmen" have attacked the Ukrainian border checkpoint at Izvarino.

They report, citing Vasily Malayev, a press officer for the Rostov oblast branch of the FSB Border Department:

"Unidentified armed men attacked one more border crossing point from Izvarino (Ukraine) to Donetsk (Russia). At approximately 22:30 Moscow time [18:30 GMT] Ukrainian border guards came from the Izvarino station to the Donetsk side and asked for shelter from the armed men who were pursuing them. There are wounded among the Ukrainian border guards", he said.

Malayev added that the wounded had given the necessary first aid. "They were evacuated to the nearest medical facility in the town of Donetsk (in the Rostov region)", he said.

Translated by The Interpreter.