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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukraine Liveblog Day 183

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.
Lugansk Streets Empty, Dire Conditions Reported

There were reports today of a heavy build-up of Russia armor near the Ukrainian border, and a report later in the day from Dmitry Tymchuk of Information Resistance that a convoy of up to 40 Russian tanks and troops had broken through to Lugansk.

We were unable to confirm these reports.

Meanwhile, a number of videos have been uploaded today to YouTube showing the streets of Lugansk empty of cars and people as well as heavy damage of some buildings from shelling.

This video titled "Empty Lugansk, City Without People 18.08.14" is confirmed as taken in Lugansk as the driver goes up Budyonny Street past the Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky (see Google Maps), past a Watson's store, and then past the Regional State Administration building, where a barricade of tires and sacks have been erected and the Russian flag is flying.

Note: This copy of the video was uploaded by Life-Maria News, but it appears that it was made originally by Graham Philips, RT stringer who has been reported to be in Lugansk.

The Lugansk City Council reported on its website today that there had been shelling that damaged buildings in the city center, including the marketplace and buildings on the Great Fatherland War Square.The market was in flames and there were reports of a fire at the Children's Hospital.

Authorities were able to make an update on their own website but reported:

The situation in Lugansk continues to remain critical; people are living in conditions of unceasing military actions, and for the 17th day there is no light, water, mobile or Internet connection.

Bread was being delivered by trucks and long lines were formed. Some water was available.

Food, medications, and fuel deliveries have stopped.

Pravda-TV also ran a report calling Lugansk "a ghost town":

The pro-separatist ANNA news had footage of the burning Central Market:

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
American Killed Fighting in Ukraine

The Ukrainian online news site reported that Mark Paslawsky, an American citizen of Ukrainian heritage, was killed in the battle outside of Ilovaisk in the Donetsk Region today.

Paslawsky, age 55, who went by the nick-name "Franco" had taken Ukrainian citizenship in order to fight on the Ukrainian side in the Donbass Battalion.

Photographer Maks Levin confirmed on his Facebook page that his friend Paslawsky was killed in battle.

Interior Minister Aven Avakov said Donbass Battalion Commander Semyon Semyochenko was also seriously wounded in the same battle.

Translation: Mark Paslawsky, 55. Ethnic Ukrainian from USA, he took Ukrainian citizenship to become a Donbass fighter. Killed today.

VICE's Simon Ostrovsky had a feature about Paslawsky August 6, "The American Volunteer in the Donbass Battalion."

Both Kremlin and pro-Russian separatist propagandists have claimed falsely that there are variously "150" or "450" "Americans mercenaries fighting in Ukraine."

But Paslawsky told Ostrovsky that he was the only American he knew of fighting in Ukraine, and he joined as a volunteer with the rank of private.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainian Military Expert Warns That 1,200 Russian Troops Have Entered Lugansk

Hromadske TV reports that 150 pieces of Russian military hardware, including tanks, and 1200 troops with Russian uniforms (but lacking chevrons) have broken through to Lugansk today. This is part of a message on Dmitry Tymchuk's Facebook page (translated by The Interpreter):

Bad News:

1. Unfortunately, the fact is confirmed that today, a convoy of military vehicles has broken through to Lugansk to aid the local fighters. Some of it had come from Russia earlier, and some from RF territory today into Donbass.

According to our information, several dozen vehicles have come into the outskirts of Lugansk, of which up to 40 are heavy armored vehicles. Some of this convoy has entered the city.

How this convoy of vehicles could break through the line of encirclement, taking into account that Lugansk is blocked by a ring of checkpoints and guard posts of the ATO forces, we cannot say at this time.

2. Terrorists from the LNR claim that the convoy of refugees from Lugansk shelled yesterday was not done by them. I. Plotnitsky, one of the leaders of the fighters, has made this statement.

This statement could possibly confuse the outside observer who could regrettably surmise that the ATO forces could commit this monstrous act by shelling the convoy by mistake. If it were not for one thing. The leader of the terrorists immediately began swearing that the armaments had not been transferred to the fighters from Russia, that supposedly "all the military vehicles are trophies and have been taken in battles."

And here everything falls into place. It is hard to imagine that the fighters could seize from the Ukrainian army many dozens of tanks and MLRSes [multiple launch rocket systems], and it is even more incomprehensible how the Ukrainian soldiers obtain such armaments and vehicles which are exclusively in the Russians' possession, like armored KAMAZs, the newest BTR-82s, the Kord machine guns, the AK "100 series" automatic rifles and so on -- the list could be endlessly extended.

The lie about the arms proves the lie about shelling the convoy as well.  But the leader of the fighters is so tangled up in lies that he doesn't even turn on his brains when he sticks his lying on the public.

We have not been able to confirm the reports yet.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Donetsk Rocked By Gunfire And Artillery, But Who's Shooting?

Earlier today there were reports that Russian-backed separatist artillery opened heavy barrages of outgoing fire from the center of Donetsk, Ukraine's fifth largest city. Reuters reports on the violence in the city:

A Reuters reporter said intense shooting broke out. Five or six rebel gunmen ran through a shopping mall car park, ducking behind cars and firing their guns.

It was not possible to determine at whom they were firing; there was no sign of Ukrainian troops and the rebels remained in control of the center.

In a park near the rebel headquarters building, residents fled when they heard the sound of shelling nearby. Shops closed early, and cars with gunmen inside sped through the streets, ignoring red traffic signals.

A few hours earlier, fighting broke out in Makiyivka, a neighborhood on the eastern edge of Donetsk that until Tuesday had not seen any combat.

A resident of Makiyivka who gave his name as Svyatoslav said he had seen separatist fighters turning back an ambulance from the scene of the fighting, telling the crew there was no one left alive for them to treat.

The fires are still burning now:

There is an interesting theory being circulated at the moment. Earlier, there were a series of reports, all posted at the same time and coming from multiple sources, which suggested that it was separatists who were firing artillery rockets, probably Grads, out of the center of Donetsk. But artillery rounds and rockets have also fallen in the city. But we have not seen signs that the Ukrainian military has moved on Donetsk today, and Reuters saw no evidence of Ukrainian soldiers in the area. Are the separatists shelling the city themselves to blame the crisis on the Ukrainian military?
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukraine Bans 14 Russian Television Channels

RFE/RL reports:

Ukraine has banned 14 Russian television channels accusing them of spreading war propaganda.

Among the channels Ukrainian authorities banned on August 19 were Russia Today and Life News.

Ukrainian Interior Ministry aide Anton Gerashchenko made the announcement on his Facebook site, saying the channels were taken off the air in Ukraine because they were "broadcasting propaganda of war and violence."

The new announcement is the result of a law which would sanction Russian companies deemed a threat to Ukraine. The law sanctions companies which are considered important to Russia's aggressive foreign policy, but unlike their European and American counterparts they also focus on the media. Again, RFE/RL reports:

The draft law, which passed by a small majority in a first reading on August 12, provides for sanctions against 172 individuals and 65 entities in Russia and other countries for the support and financing of separatism in Ukraine.

Targets include behemoths like energy giant Gazprom, which currently relies on Ukraine to pipe nearly half of its gas supplies to Europe. Ukrainian economists have eagerly suggested Moscow could lose as much as $150 billion in revenue if the sanctions are imposed.

Press advocates are concerned that such heady projections may trump objections about the legislation's media provisions, which would allow for the prohibition of individual print, broadcast, and Internet outlets outside and inside Ukraine, as well as limiting access to public telecommunications networks.

International watchdogs have condemned the proposals as a profound rollback in Ukraine's commitment to free speech, considered one of the strongest in the post-Soviet space.

While the Ukrainian crackdown on Russian media outlets has been widely condemned, it is also important to remember the context. When Russian troops began to take over Crimea, one of the first things they did was arrest Ukrainian journalists and raid television and radio broadcast centers. The signals of independent Ukrainian news outlets were then replaced with those of Russian state media.

Ukraine has also been accused of arresting Russian journalists, and some Russian journalists have been deported or their entry into Ukraine has been blocked. At the same time, journalists have also been arrested, kidnapped, and harassed in separatist territory. On the other side of the border, Russia has banned journalism that (according to the Kremlin) spreads anti-Russian propaganda. They also now require bloggers to register with the government, and they have shut down or tampered with the few remaining independent media sources in the country.

Clearly Ukraine now sees itself in an existential struggle against a new and aggressive Russian imperialism, and it believes that the Russian journalists operating or broadcasting in the country are part of the Kremlin's strategy for control in Ukraine.