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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 179

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
Reports Of Ukrainian Forces Moving On Lugansk

Informator.lg.ua reports that Ukrainian forces have entered the separatist-held city of Lugansk.

They report (translated by The Interpreter):

Ukrainian forces entered the regional center, Lugansk. As of 23:31 this evening local time, street battles were under way, a source in the Ukrainian Armed Forces told a correspondent from informator.lg.ua. He added that the situation was worsened by the fact that the separatists were firing indiscriminately on residential areas. 

"Essentially, the fighters have turned all of Lugansk into a stronghold. These are not just militia men. There are professional soldiers fighting on the side of the LPR."

In recent days, Russian APCs have been spotted moving into Ukraine, and a humanitarian convoy has pulled up to the checkpoint of Izvarino, also used frequently for months to move support into separatists from Russia. Could the "professional fighters" be the truck drivers who changed out of their khakis? Or Russian soldiers who have been making their way into the area for days?

A large number of fighters have been seen in the area of a plane at the VVVAUSH (Voroshilovgrad Higher Military Aviation Academy of Fighters).

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Local residents reported tonight that there were fires in area of Transpele, a knit-ware factory, and fires in the direction of Khryashchevaty. There are also reports of shelling of the Epitsentr market (in the eastern quarters). 


The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russia Tries To Explain Why The Aid Trucks Are Empty
A number of Western journalists have reported that the white-painted KAMAZ trucks used in Russia's humanitarian aid convoy turn out to be empty. There's been a lot of speculation about what they were planning to fill them with, but now Russian transportation officials have come up with an explanation.

It seems the KAMAZ trucks were so new -- manufactured this year -- that they weren't broken in yet, and therefore couldn't be trusted to carry full loads under Russian regulations -- nor be forced to absorb so much wear when they were brand-new.

There were also only a limited number of persons accompanying the convoy. An official from the transportation agency that handled the make-up of the convoy had explanations for RIA-Novosti (translated by The Interpreter):

"The KAMAZes were not loaded fully so that there wouldn't be excessive wear on automobiles that were not yet broken in, many of which were of 2014 make. It would mean that in case of a breakdown of the mechanics and a stop on the highway, reloading the cargo by hand to other vehicles completely filled to capacity, would be quite difficult. Moreover, a fully-loaded truck does not go fast enough uphill, so in view of the large number of vehicles, this would have had a heavy impact on the speed of the convoy's movement. And the cargo must be delivered quickly in light of the difficult humanitarian situation in the east of Ukraine."

Where to start?

First of all, these trucks are not just carrying light loads, but as we pointed out earlier they are almost empty and are carrying a tiny tiny fraction of the weight they were designed to haul.In fact, Novaya Gazeta has a new gallery up, and the trucks are ridiculously empty.

Secondly, why would new vehicles be used instead of the many many trucks at Russia's disposal?On a related note, these are military trucks, as we've pointed out below, and so why weren't different military trucks used, ones that were newer?

Thirdly, we're supposed to believe that these trucks are new, but the trucks are military vehicles which were painted white just this week. One would assume that the Russian military would break their trucks in fairly quickly, or why would they have so many trucks?

Fourth, why does the Russian government care about the speed with which the aid is delivered, since these vehicles have been parked at the same spot for days now?

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian Defense Minister Says There's No Military Soldiers In 'Aid Convoy.' He's Lying

Below is the readout of US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's Phone Call with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu:

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke today via telephone with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu to discuss the ongoing situation in Ukraine. Specifically, Secretary Hagel requested clarification regarding the Russian humanitarian convoy. Minister Shoygu "guaranteed" that there were no Russian military personnel involved in the humanitarian convoy, nor was the convoy to be used as a pretext to further intervene in Ukraine. He acknowledged that the goods would be delivered and distributed under the International Committee of the Red Cross. Minister Shoygu assured Secretary Hagel that Russia was meeting Ukraine's conditions.

The two ministers discussed the need to have bilateral follow-on meetings of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. They also agreed to maintain open lines of communication.

The promise that this is not a pretext for an invasion would be more comforting if it were not placed right after an obvious lie. The aid convoy originated on a military base and was guarded by an S-300 missile defense system. A Russian soldier claims the military painted 300 military trucks to make them white. It appears that the drivers of the vehicles are, in fact, military officers, and some of them have even been seen with Russian airborne tattoos.

And then there's the claim that the aid is being delivered under Ukraine's conditions. No, it is not. Ukraine negotiated with Russia to have these vehicles driven to a border crossing north of Kharkiv and allow the Red Cross take over the convoys. Instead, these vehicles are located near the separatist-controlled Izvarino crossing and are guarded by a large amount of military vehicles, some of which have already been documented as having crossed the border last night.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
More Russian Armored Vehicles Moving Near Border Crossing Right Now
Once again, it is evening on the border between Russia and Ukraine, and once again journalists are spotting Russian armor moving on the border.
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
What Is Shaping Putin's Foreign Policy?

Why is Putin doing this? What is shaping his Ukraine policy? The Interpreter's Andrew Bowen Examines these questions in his latest analysis, The Vanguard of Russia’s New Foreign Policy.

Bowen argues that since 2008 we have seen a gradual shift from the pragmatic Putin, to a more ideological leader bent on preserving his ideas of Russian statehood and sovereignty. In order to project Russian power and to defend this notion the country needed a strong military. This military and its elite forces have come to be the most important foreign policy tool in the Kremlin's arsenal. It is these troops, designed to operate in the confusing and shifting landscape of conflict that are the defenders of Putin's new vision for Russia.

Bowen's article has received some high praise from the President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves:

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