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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 168

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
Sanctions On Russian Grounding Oligarchs and Airlines

CNN reports that Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko cannot fly his Gulfstream luxury private airplane because he can't get spare parts or even use the built-in maps to navigate the plane. The reason? New sanctions which specifically target some of Putin's closest cronies.

But Timchenko's not the only on grounded. CNN reports:

European sanctions have grounded Russia's fledgling low-cost airline Dobrolet just two months after it launched. And a Russian tour operator, Labyrinth, collapsed over the weekend, blaming the financial strain of the crisis.

Dobrolet had been flying four times a day since June from Moscow to Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in March.

Flights were suspended at midnight Sunday after European companies stopped providing leasing, repair and maintenance services and insurance to the airline, owned by Russian flag carrier Aeroflot.

Other sectors are also taking a hit, including the energy sector.While Russia's stocks inched upwards today, energy stocks are down again over sanctions, fear of more sanctions, and over a proposed change in energy taxes which fuel a large percentage of the Kremlin's coffers. RFE/RL reports that even an energy company which has not been hit with sanctions, LUKoil, Russia's second-largest oil producer, has seen stocks slide:

LUKoil said in a statement it was selling its gas stations in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia as part of an "optimization" plan.

The decision came just days after Lukoil's chief executive, Vagit Alekperov, said the company will likely be forced to trim its investment program as a result of Western sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

The European Union and the U.S. have so far refrained from imposing sanctions on LUKoil, but their latest rounds of sanctions shut Russia's state-owned banks out of Western capital markets, in turn limiting Russian companies' access to financing both at home and abroad.

Russian oligarchs are taking notice of the increasingly-targeted sanctions and appear to be selling off certain assets, including stocks:

As we've been reporting for months, Putin's popularity shot way up as a direct result of his actions in Ukraine and Crimea. But as we've also reported, his status among his own elites may be slipping. The Fiscal Times reports:

“According to German intelligence it is quite possible that some of the oligarchs who are worried by European Union sanctions will soon start putting economic interests above political concerns and try to put the brakes on Putin,” Der Spiegel reported.

The German report came out before the new round of sanctions were announced. Many in Russia were assuming that Germany and the rest of Europe would not impose new penalties because of the close ties between the two. Yesterday, this assumption turned out to be false.

"The ruble is losing value, Russia's budget deficit is growing and its economic development is bad. Even the Russian president sees this," Germany Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaüble told Der Spiegel. “Nobody is Moscow should start thinking that Russia can win with its approach."

As long as Putin believes that his popular support could be jeopardized by weakening his stance on Ukraine, he may continue to escalate his actions there which will continue to have more negative consequences for Russia's oligarchs and certain sectors of the Russian economy -- though survival, not economics, appears to be Putin's prime motivator.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian 'PeaceKeepers' Moving Toward - And Across - Ukraine's Borders
At a press conference the speaker of National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Andriy Lysenko, said that Russian troops disguised as "peacekeepers" were building up across the region, and some had already crossed the border.

An interesting claim was made at the press conference:

Some 34 Russian military armored carriers painted with the peacekeeping insignia are concentrating next to the Belaya Berezka village (Bryansk region), he says.

On Saturday, a military cargo train with 65 mobile sub-artillery units pulled in at the ‘Pivnichnyi’ railway station in Gomel city, Belarus, Lysenko notes.

The motley crew is trying to frame up Ukrainian forces by firing at the Russian territory with assault rifles, artillery and Grads, the speaker adds. This results in the return fire from the Russian side targeting the positions of the Ukrainian troops.

The Wall Street Journal adds that Lysenko also says that while Donetsk is nearly cut off, the city is not completely isolated -- meaning that supplies and fighters from outside the city may still be able to reach the city which is controlled by insurgents.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Ukrainian Army Not Assaulting Donetsk, But Is Preparing To

The spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council (SNBO), Andrei Lysenko, has given another briefing today, reports Ukrainska Pravda.

Despite claiming earlier that Ukrainian forces had "begun liberating Donetsk," the SNBO now says that an assault on the city is not currently under way.

"At this time, there is are no official reports on an assault. Preparatory activities are under way."

Earlier, the Facebook page for the Ukrainian Azov volunteer battalion carried a photo with the caption "We have entered Donetsk."

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The photo was later geolocated by Facebook user Anton Komaroff as being taken in the suburb of Marinka:

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This would reflect the most recent SNBO statement that Ukrainian forces are not storming the city yet. Marinka lies to the immediate west of the city, in an area where Ukrainian forces have been steadily retaking villages and small towns.

If, as Ukraine claims, the town of Yasinovataya, to the north-east of Donetsk, has been retaken, then it would appear that Ukraine is tightening the noose on the separatist-held city. Fighters from the Vostok battalion are still believed to be based in the eastern suburb of Makeyevka, to the east of which lies Debaltsevo, which Ukraine recently retook amidst heavy fighting. 

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Germany Blocks Rheinmetall Exports To Russia

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reports that the German minister for economics, Sigmar Gabriel, has blocked the export of military training equipment by Rheinmetall to Russia, following EU sanctions.

The exports, for which permission has been withdrawn, were part of a plan to develop a €128 million combat training centre for the Russian army.

Berlin said Rheinmetall would be entitled to claim compensation for stopping the contract, which was approved by the last German government.

"We are in talks with the company and will remain that way," a ministry spokeswoman said.

Moscow responded to the German decision by threatening to launch court action for damages, according to a report published by the Interfax news agency in Moscow.

Gabriel had already temporarily halted the deal in March following Russia's annexation of Crimea.

His decision to revoke the contract was backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, officials said.
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russia Holding War Games Near Ukraine

Russia is holding military drills near Ukraine's border today. Reuters reports:

The Russian air force said more than 100 aircraft, including fighter jets and bombers, were taking part in the manoeuvres this week in the central and western military districts...

The manoeuvres include missile-firing practice and will assist "coordination between aviation and anti-missile defence", Interfax news agency quoted an airforce spokesman as saying.

He said Russia's latest bomber, the Su-24, was taking part, as well as Su-27 and MiG-31 fighter jets.

Meanwhile, Russia was supposed to hold an event called the "Tank Biathlon World Championship" today with representatives from across the world, though no Western nations participated:

After a year of diplomatic conflicts with the US and Europe over whistleblower Edward Snowden, the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, no western countries showed up for the party. Shoigu nonetheless called the event a "new page in international military cooperation". The 12 countries participating were Angola, Armenia, Belarus, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia, Serbia and Venezuela.


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