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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 175

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
Is the Russian Army or Emergencies Ministry Handling Humanitarian Convoy to Ukraine?
RIA Novosti and other Russian state media are now reporting that the humanitarian convoy we've been following has left from Naro-Fominsk; earlier, they did not indicate any location (and yet another RIA report gives the town as Alabino.) The three-kilometer convoy is set to arrive Wednesday morning, says RIA.

Naro-Fominsk is at least an hour to the south from Kalininets, the location where we had geolocated this video showing rows of parked KAMAZ trucks painted white. Alabino is about 40 minutes to the south from Kalininets, and is the location of the 5th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade. A soldier stationed at the Tamanskaya Division 2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division reported that they had spent several days painting trucks and loading humanitarian aid into them.


Naro-Fominsk is also an area where there is an army base, the 4th Guards Kantemirovskaya Tank Division. But the video does not appear to have been taken at that location.

In any event, the reason why it matters to determine whether the convoy is being handled by the Russian Armed Forces or the Emergencies Ministry [known as MChS or Emercom] is because of concerns that the humanitarian mission may be used as a pretext for a military invasion. The Russian media has been contradictory on this point.

Russian blogger Masha Klyuchitsa has a good analysis of the contradictions on her VKontakte page (translated by The Interpreter)

This is likely the most unusual humanitarian aid convoy. It has no identifying marks, registration numbers on the vehicles -- nothing. There are also conflicting reports in the media. RIA Novosti wrote simply about a convoy; on [Defense Ministry] TV Zvezda, it suddenly becomes a convoy of the Emergencies Ministry, although all the Emercom vehicles  have license plates and the relevant paint job (there is an archive photo on Zvezda's site). The site Vesti 24 also writes about Emercom and even shows scenes of the loading of trucks, which can't be seen in the [RIA] photographs.

In fact, the provenance of the automobiles becomes quite clear from this video [reported earlier by The Interpreter]. It is clear that soldiers are standing next to the convoy, and the license plates have not been removed yet from the KAMAZes. Of course the convoy is not carrying humanitarian aid disguising weapons -- for that, they don't need to go to such great lengths. Most likely, it's the usual demonstration of force -- "you forbid us to deliver humanitarian aid, but we will do this just as we consider necessary." 

Therefore, likely, it's not Emercom that is taking part, which would seem logical in any event, but the army, although not publicly. There isn't a word on the Emercom website in the section on the latest information about this convoy.

 Photos by RIA Novosti of humanitarian convoy without license plates.

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Meanwhile, there are reports that another 15 trucks with humanitarian aid have arrived in Rostov near the Ukrainian border, says RBC.ru.

Authorities say they are prepared to send them to the Donbass, RBC.ru reports, adding that "the Russian Interior Ministry and Emercom will be responsible for the delivery of the convoy."

Kiev wants the aid to go to Lugansk, and come not only from Russia but the EU and Germany; meanwhile there is fear that Russia will provoke the situation to invade, in a scenario recalled from the Georgian war. The Ukrainians have good reason to fear this, given that Russia has brought armored convoys marked with "peace-keeping" insignia right up to the Ukrainian border over the weekend.

Maxim Grigoryev, head of the working group in the Russian government's Civic Chamber to provide humanitarian aid to southeastern Ukraine, told RBC.ru that Emercom, with the involvement of the ICRC, could make up the convoy within six hours to deliver the aid.

Yet the local Emergencies Ministry office for the South Region in Rostov didn't have any information about a humanitarian convoy, and said the regional government was taking care of humanitarian aid, RBC.ru reported.

RIA Novosti reported that the ICRC was waiting to confirm the details with Russia concern the type and volume of deliveries and the transportation and storage requirements.


The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian Humanitarian Convoy Leaves Military Base for Southeast Ukraine

ITAR-TASS reported August 12 Moscow time that a convoy of 280 trucks had left the suburbs of Moscow for the southeast of Ukraine.

It was reported to carry 2,000 tons of humanitarian cargo including 400 tons of grains, 100 tons of sugar, 62 tons of baby food, 54 tons of first-aid items and medicines, 12,000 sleeping bags, and 69 electrical power generators of various capacity.

TASS reported Putin as stating that in a telephone call with EU Commission President Barroso, he reached an agreement regarding cooperation with the International Commitee of the Red Cross. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said the details of the convoy were being worked out with Ukrainian leadership. "I hope that the humanitarian action that we are working out now will not be stopped by our Western partners."

There was a great deal of confusion today about how Russia would participate in a humanitarian convoy, given that it has appeared to wish to use "humanitarian relief" as a pretext for invading Ukraine. The ICRC made it clear that no armed escorts will accompany its mission in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, we have geolocated the video reported earlier showing numerous trucks painted white and marked with red crosses and the words "medical service." They were parked next to an S-300 -- one of the most advanced anti-aircraft systems Russia possesses -- at a military base, being inspected by Russian Military Auto Inspection.

A soldier from the 1117th Air Defense Regiment of the 2nd Guards of the Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division reported on the social media network VKontakte that his unit had been busy for several days painting KAMAZ trucks white. His regiment is located in Kalininets, a suburb of Moscow and another nearby town Kobyakovo.

He wrote 11 August (translation by The Interpreter):

"Today we loaded humanitarian aid into KAMAzes [trucks] for Ukraine. Water, medicines, canned food, baby food, sleeping bags, electrical generators and various equipment (field kitchens and so on). There were about 300 trucks, all military KAMAZes, they were painted white in a few days."

His account has now been removed from VKontakte.

But his photos of the white-painted trucks and a screenshot of his VKontakte page survived on Twitter.



That information could be put together with the video of the white trucks to geolocate it to Kalininets.



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A photo taken earlier published on Google Street View shows a tank at that location practicing for the Victory Day parade, with the rail yard visible behind it.

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Notice also that the building at 9 seconds in matches this building. 

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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
Claims That Russia Deploying Advanced Anti-Aircraft Missiles On Border

There are a lot of new pictures being spread on social media today which reportedly show more Russian vehicles moving toward the border. The worrying thing is that some of them appear to show advanced anti-aircraft weapons.

For instance this picture was posted by the journalist Saviik Shuster and appears to show an Osa SA-8 missile system:

The SA-8 is designed to operate in conjunction with a larger radar network or independently, and its missiles have a range of 12,000 meters (remember that MH17 was knocked out of the sky while it was at an altitude of 10,000m).

While we can't geolocate the picture, it does not appear to have been posted on the internet before today.

Several more videos which reportedly show Russian vehicles on the move near the border.

UPDATE: These last two pictures came from the VKontakte page (popular Russian social media network) of a Russian soldier named Semyon Borisov who says he is from the 1117th Air Defense Regiment of the 2nd Guards of the Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division.

He writes (translation by The Interpreter):

"Today we loaded humanitarian aid into KAMAzes [trucks] for Ukraine. Water, medicines, canned food, baby food, sleeping bags, electrical generators and various equipment (field kitchens and so on). There were about 300 trucks, all military KAMAZes, they were painted white in a few days."

His account has now been removed from VKontakte.

A screenshot was saved on Twitter.


But the video that really has our attention is this one. The video shows dozens of white Kamaz trucks and troops with uniforms that say "Military Auto Inspection." At the end of the video, however, there appears to be the radar tower for an S-300 anti-aircraft system:

The vehicle at the end of the video looks like a 5N66M (clam shell) radar system, one of the many things that makes the S-300 one of the most advanced anti-aircraft systems Russia possesses. 

We're still working to definitively locate where this video was taken.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
CPJ Says Russian Photojournalist Missing In Ukraine

The Committee to Protect Journalists has released a statement saying that another journalist is missing in Ukraine:

The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the safety of Andrei Stenin, Russian photojournalist for the state news agency Rossiya Segodnya (previously RIA Novosti). The agency said it had not heard from Stenin since August 5, when he was reporting on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, including from the cities of Donetsk and Sloviansk. An unnamed source cited by Rossiya Segodnya said Stenin had been abducted by Ukrainian militia and was in the custody of the Ukrainian security service (SBU) in the city of Zaporozhye. The SBU denied the allegation, according to Rossiya Segodnya.

"We call for the immediate release of Andrei Stenin," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "All parties to the conflict in Ukraine must respect the role of journalists and allow them to do their job safely and without fear of retaliation."

Press freedom conditions in Ukraine, especially in the volatile southeastern regions, have steadily deteriorated in recent months, with journalists being detained, attacked, abducted, and killed, according to CPJ research.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Contradictory Statements On Russian Involvement In Aid Mission To Lugansk

Kyiv Post's Christopher Miller provides the clearest explanation of the totally-unclear situation revolving around today's announcement that the International Committee of the Red Cross will run an aid mission into the eastern Ukrainian territory of Lugansk.

Here is the rundown of the confusion:

Earlier today the Ukrainian President agreed to allow the International Red Cross to conduct a humanitarian aid mission in Lugansk. Russia then said that they would be sending their own aid convoy into Ukraine. The initial statements from Kiev and the EU make no mention of this. Since then the ICRC has not released a formal statement, but as we pointed out in our previous update a member of the ICRC office in Kiev also was unaware of any Russian participation in the efforts.

Since then, Ukraine now says Russia will "participate" but it's not clear what "participate" means. Miller clears some of this up:

A senior official in the [Ukrainian] presidential administration told the Kyiv Post that "Russia will have a formal part, but there will be no Russian [military] forces, no soldiers."

Ukraine had previously objected to Russian involvement in relief efforts, fearing that a humanitarian mission could be used as a cover for an invasion of Russian soldiers...

Still, the senior presidential administration official said that with Russia participating in the convoy the risk of war between the countries "goes up."

There have been recent threats of Russian incursions into the country. On Friday, a humanitarian convoy accompanied by Russian military personnel and military vehicles advanced toward the Ukrainian border with the intention of crossing into the country late on Aug. 8, but it stopped short of the frontier, said Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration Valeriy Chaly.

It's worth reading Miller's breakdown of today's statements.

The White House has released their official statement, which echoes what they said on August 9th:

The President spoke this morning with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko about the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine.  President expressed his strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  The two leaders agreed that any Russian intervention in Ukraine without the formal, express consent and authorization of the Ukraine government would be unacceptable and a violation of international law.  President Poroshenko also noted the continued shelling of Ukraine’s territory from Russia.  President Poroshenko updated the President on his engagement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the effort to deliver multilateral humanitarian aid to the distressed populations in eastern Ukraine.  The President noted the urgency of such humanitarian efforts and encouraged President Poroshenko to continue to exercise restraint and caution in military operations in order to avoid civilian casualties.  In light of the ongoing violence and instability, the President and President Poroshenko agreed that all parties should prioritize diplomatic efforts toward finding a political resolution to the crisis.

At the very least we see that Kiev is not granting Russia "the formal, express consent and authorization of the Ukraine government" to intervene in Ukraine as part of the Red Cross mission. Kiev's understanding is that there will be no Russian troops involved in this mission.

But what is Moscow's understanding of what took place today?


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