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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 158

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
What Happened On The Day MH17 Was Shot Down?

The Associated Press has published a very important summary of everything that they know about what happened on July 17th, the day MH17 was shot down. The opening paragraphs appear to be a summary of eyewitnesses -- both residents of the town and the AP's own journalists:

It was lunchtime when a tracked launcher with four SA-11 surface-to-air missiles rolled into town and parked on Karapetyan Street. Fifteen hundred miles (2,400 kilometers) to the west, passengers were checking in for Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

It had been a noisy day in this eastern Ukrainian town, residents recounted. Plenty of military equipment was moving through. But still it was hard to miss the bulky missile system, also known as a Buk M-1. It left deep tread marks in the asphalt as it rumbled by in a small convoy.

The vehicles stopped in front of journalists from The Associated Press. A man wearing unfamiliar fatigues, speaking with a distinctive Russian accent, checked to make sure they weren't filming. The convoy then moved on, destination unknown in the heart of eastern Ukraine's pro-Russia rebellion.

Three hours later, people six miles (10 kilometers) west of Snizhne heard loud noises.

And then they saw pieces of twisted metal - and bodies- fall from the sky.

The piece goes on to add a few more very interesting details. For instance, the Ukrainian government has now pinpointed exactly when and where the Buk entered Ukraine, when and where it traveled, and the exact time when townspeople report hearing a loud blast (or two) right before flight MH17 was shot out of the sky.

What is fascinating is that according to these details the Buk traveled from the Russian border into Donetsk, and then on to Torez and Snezhnoye. If you look at our interactive map about the crash site, we have already deduced that a Buk was seen 24 kilometers west of Torez, on the road between Donetsk and Snezhnoye.

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These details, which we have pieced together from open-sourced information, matches precisely what reporters on the ground in these towns are learning.

Read the entire AP dispatch here, and read our UPDATED summary of what we know about the downing of flight MH17.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
RT.com Stringer Philips Reportedly Deported from Ukraine
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has deported Graham William Philips, an RT.com stringer, from Ukraine and banned him from entry for 3 years, ukranews.com reported. The Interpreter has translated the news:

The journalist was questioned and deported with a ban on entry to the territory of Ukraine for a period of 3 years in the interests of ensuring state security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.


We were unable to confirm the report.

Ukranews.com cited an unnamed "source in the SBU."

Philips was detained three days ago at during a battle at the Donetsk airport.

RT.com stated that he was not on assignment for them at the time, and separatist Col. Igor Strelkov announced at the time that the area was closed to journalists for safety reasons.

Journalists reporting in southeastern Ukraine must obtain press passes from the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic," and ukranews.com included in its news story a copy such a credential dated July 22, as well as his passport, which suggests they are sourced with the SBU.

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RT.com has posted the same report sourced to "local news," promising "details to come."

Supporters of Philips on Twitter are claiming that his Facebook has been defaced by unknown persons who have gained access to his account, but we have not verified that this was his account.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

We have posted a summary of the evidence which answers the question of who shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.

We will keep the post regularly updated, but here is the current conclusion:

The evidence is piling up that the Russian-backed militants fired the Buk at MH17. It seems likely that this was an accident since there is no evidence that the militants knew that this was a civilian airliner they were shooting at, initially they took credit for shooting down a military transport plane, and it’s not clear how shooting down a civilian airliner has helped their cause (the opposite is probably true).

But the evidence also suggests that Russia has becoming incredibly reckless in his support of the separatists. Russia has been supplying anti-aircraft weapons (including the Strela-10), has been supplying more tanks and rocket launchers in recent weeks, and has been caught firing GRAD rockets into Ukraine, a trend which has continued or even sped up since the downing of MH17. Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that Russia supplied the Buk crews to the separatists, and while there is circumstantial evidence that Russia supplied the actual missiles to Russia, there is no evidence yet that the separatists captured intact Buk missile systems from the Ukrainian government.

Russian-backed militants control the crash site and have reportedly tampered with the evidence, so more definitive answers may never come. But while questions remain, the culprits are clear, and those accused of mass murder control the crime scene.

Read the entire article here.

We are not alone in this conclusion. Quoting the analysis in Vice News by our managing editor James Miller, the British embassy in Kiev agrees:

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Could Russia Be Planning to Send BM-27 Uragan Rockets to Separatists?

As we reported yesterday, Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, told reporters yesterday that the US had evidence that Russia was planning to supply separatist fighters with more powerful rocket launchers than the BM-21 Grad systems we have seen them using.

Mark Galeotti, Professor of Global Affairs at New York University and an expert on Russia's security services, has written on his blog today that the launchers referred to could be BM-27 Uragan systems.

The Uragan fires fewer, but far higher calibre rockets than the Grad. Galeotti suggests that the import of long range, heavy weaponry may be an attempt to change the course of the war, which has recently appeared to be going in Ukraine's favour.

Noting that Ukraine's chief military advantages are air power and long range artillery, Galeotti writes:

With systems such as the now-infamous Buk and the BM-27, Moscow is clearly trying to neutralise them (the BM-27 is a useful counterbattery weapon, able to silence Ukrainian guns). The idea is presumably to put Kyiv into the situation of facing a nasty-and higher-casualty-old-fashioned close-quarters battle in Donetsk if it wants to wipe out the rebels, hoping that Poroshenko won't be willing to accept the costs. (Though I suspect he would, if need be.)

The recent arrival of Russian 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled guns also suggests this step-up in tactics.

Galeotti notes that the more advanced the equipment being supplied to the separatists, the more they will depend on Russia for training, spare parts and ammunition.

He suggests that the Kremlin may well be hoping to knock back, or at least suspend Ukrainian government advances so as to place the separatists (and Russia itself) in a stronger position to negotiate from:

A willingness to supply heavy hardware, coupled with the uncompromising rhetoric from the Kremlin, does suggest that Putin has chosen not to back away from his adventure in eastern Ukraine. However, it's not impossible that the hope is that allowing the rebels to give Kyiv's forces a bloody nose will allow Moscow to negotiate some terms for a 'peace with honour' extrication from the mess on stronger terms, given that at present, between the seizure of Slovyansk and the moral charge provided by MH17, the Ukrainian government is in unyielding mood. This can be disastrous (witness Russia clinging on in WW1 in the hope that "next battle" would provide one such victory), but can work.
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Australia to Send 190 Police and Defence Personnel to MH17 Site

Reuters reports that the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, has announced that a further 100 police officers and "defense force personnel" are being dispatched to Europe with the aim of securing the MH17 crash site in a joint operation with The Netherlands.

90 Australian Federal Police officers are already in London, awaiting the confirmation of an agreement between Australia, The Netherlands and Ukraine on security arrangements at the crash site.

Reuters reports that some of the personnel to be sent to Ukraine will be armed.

They note that:

On Tuesday, Abbott said that Russian-backed rebels who control the area were tampering with evidence on "an industrial scale" and argued that outside police or possibly military forces were needed to ensure that did not continue.
That same day (July 22), Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE, who was at the scene of the crash, told the BBC that there were signs that wreckage had been tampered with. He reported that large sections of wreckage had been cut into and moved. 
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