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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 186

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.
Russian UN Ambassador Invokes Syria Resolution to Justify Aid Convoy's Invasion of Ukraine

At the request of Lithuania, an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was convened at 3:00 pm today, amid concerns about Russia's invasion of Ukraine with a humanitarian convoy which proceeded to Lugansk without clearance from Ukrainian customs, and in violation of international law.

Even as attention was focused on the disputed convoy, Russia was condemned by NATO for deploying artillery units within Ukraine.

Lithuanian's permanent representative to the UN Amb. Raimonda Murmokaitė made a statement at the stake-out following the UNSC meeting, noting that Russia had blatantly ignored the lack of consent from the Ukrainians and reversed agreements made not 12 hours previously. Proceeding with the convoy was a "blatant violation of international law." Moreover, such aid convoys ""shouldn't be accompanied by suspicious military movements along the border of a sovereign country," she said.

She noted that the Ukrainian Red Cross was active on the ground, along with other private donors and that in fact militants refused to accept aid from Ukrainian hands. The peculiarities around the convoy, including the mainly empty trucks, begged the question of how serious Russia was about delivering aid.

Amb. Murmokaitė also called for an investigation into the murder of the Lithuanian honorary consul in Lugansk, who was reportedly killed by separatists today.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin discounted claims that most of the Security Council opposed his interpretation of events, countering that China and "several Latin Americans" supported Moscow's view -- although he didn't want to "point any fingers."

He said the UNSC session was a "kingdom of crooked mirrors" and that other ambassadors were "unconcerned about the humanitarian catastrophe" and only concerned about the Russian aid convoy.

Churkin maintained that Russia had received official acceptance in an official note that was sent by the Ukrainian foreign ministry, and therefore after 34 trucks were cleared, but others began to be stalled, Russia decided to move forward.

As expected, as justification for these actions, Churkin referenced a recent UNSC resolution mandating a temporary delivery of aid to Syrian civilians caught in armed conflict without the consent of the Assad government.

"We broke some new ground on the Syria resolution, which allowed humanitarian aid to be delivered without consent," he said, while adding that he was "not making any direct linkages, but there is a precedent."

He noted that Ukrainian forces were shelling Lugansk, and that the ICRC could not accompany the convoy due to security concerns.

"If they shell the places we're delivering so it will not be delivered, we won't tolerate that," he said.

Asked again by a reporter regarding "any consonance" between Russia's action today and the Syrian resolution, Churkin reiterated that he did not want to make any direct linkage, but "important legal ground was broken," and the Syrian resolution was adopted with Russian Federation support. "It's an important legal point of departure," he said.

But the Syrian resolution mandated United Nations agencies and their implementing partners -- not a state that is a party to the armed conflict, as Russia is with Ukraine -- to make deliveries at four specific checkpoints. Furthermore, a time-limit of 180 days was placed on the permission, and the procedure is to be monitored.

Even so, Churkin disingenuously went back in forth in his remarks at the UNSC stake-out claiming "only after permission did it [the convoy] start moving" -- which was not the case as the trucks weren't cleared -- and then claiming the Syrian resolution broke the legal restraints of sovereignty -- when the Syrian resolution dealt with delivery by UN agencies, not states.

Asked about the prospects for the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliver aid in Lugansk, Churkin said, "they have people on the ground in Lugansk" and that "they made some remarks to the effect they might be prepared" to distribute and "that was the deal." The Russian media also conveyed the ICRC tweet in an upbeat fashion implying that it would become involved in Lugansk now.

But in fact the ICRC has not clarified that it will participate in aid delivery or distribution in Lugansk.

Under the Geneva Conventions and the rules of the ICRC, states may use the symbol of the red cross to invoke a protective status where medical and humanitarian assistance will be provided unarmed.

Yet Russia has exploited the existence of negotiations with the ICRC about its own participation to imply falsely on Russian state TV and in official statements that the ICRC has condoned the manner in which the convoy was organized and proceeded.

We will recall that the convoy got its start on a Russian army base, with vehicles re-painted white by Russian soldiers, and has also essentially served as a decoy while Russian armor and soldiers have made incursions into Ukraine to fight alongside pro-Russian separatists against the Ukrainian armed forces.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
OSCE Confirms Russian 'Aid' Convoy Left Without ICRC Escort

Russian humanitarian aid trucks departed from the Donetsk Border Crossing Point without ICRC’s escort, the OSCE's observers confirmed in a statement on its web site:

DONETSK CHECKPOINT, Russian Federation, 22 August 2014 - On 22 August (until 15:55) a total number of 227 vehicles passed the Donetsk Border Crossing


Point (BCP) control area towards the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Out of the total number of vehicles, 37 had been inspected. In addition, out of the 227 vehicles, between 27-30 were support vehicles and rest of them trucks.


In the afternoon and evening of the 21 August 2014, 29 cargo trucks and 8 support vehicles (ambulances, recovery and maintenance and fuel vehicles) entered Donetsk BCP. These 37 vehicles (group 1) were checked by RF and UKR border and customs personnel under ICRC’s supervision. After that, these vehicles moved beyond the BCP control area towards the border, which is out of sight of OM observers. During the late evening of 21 August, a second group (group 2) of 37 vehicles arrived and was parked for the night before the Donetsk BCP control area.

On 22 August at around 11:00 OT observed some movement beyond the control area.

At 11:48, group 2 departed, thus, group 1 must have left before (Reported at 12:08 in the Spot Report).

Between 13:05 and 13:25, group 3 consisting of 37 vehicles passed the control area towards the border.

Between 13:30 and 13:55, group 4 consisting of 39 vehicles passed the control area towards the border.

Between 14:45 and 15:10, group 5 consisting of 32 vehicles passed the control area towards the border.

Between 15:15 and 15:50, group 6 consisting of 45 vehicles passed the control area towards the border.

After the last vehicle passed the control area at 15:55, a total number of 227 vehicles had passed the control area towards the border.

At 16:20, OT observed 5 fuel trucks and one ambulance re-entering the BCP from the border.

The number of 227 vehicles coincides with the number given by a RF senior official, who reported that 227 vehicles had passed in four hours.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
GRU Soldier Spotted in Ukraine?

A soldier has reportedly been spotted in Ukraine in a uniform with the insignia of the GRU, or Russian military intelligence.

We can't confirm where the picture was taken, but the insignia is definitely that of the GRU, the initials for "Main Intelligence Directorate" of the Russian Federation Armed Forces.



This photo was originally taken and published in a tweet by Thomas Groves of Reuters, and sparked a lot of commentary about how easy it is to buy such insignia at any flea market -- and that it is out of date.

The Russian online news services indeed reported back in 2002 that the GRU was stripped of its long-time bat symbol.

The bat was said to be replaced by a double-headed black eagle against a black background with arrows and a red carnation in its talons. We haven't found an example of this new symbol.

Most likely the real, current GRU wouldn't go around advertising its presence with badges, especially outdated ones, and this separatist fighter could be using either an old badge from past service or merely have bought one.

There have been numerous reports of the GRU present in southeastern Ukraine, which stands to reason given that Russia has clearly mounted a military action against Ukraine that is no longer disputed.

Some reports indicate that the separatist leaders could be GRU agents; Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin) has been described as working for the GRU in the sanctions notice about him issued by the European Union, and Russian journalists have reported his background.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Moscow Says It's Kiev And Washington Pushing For War

Sure, the Russian convoys have crossed into Ukraine today in violation of every agreement Russia has reached with the international committee, but it's not Russia's fault that the war in the east continues -- at least, that's what the Russian Foreign Ministry is saying today:

A quote from the ITAR-TASS article:

On August 21, Russia suggested adopting a UN Security Council Resolution to support the delivery of relief aid to the conflict-hit eastern Ukraine.

“The United States and Lithuania blocked Russia’s constructive initiative. They suggested that calls to end the hostilities and ensure the safe delivery of relief cargo (to the recipients) as well as a reference to the fact that the cargo was sent by the Russian side be excluded from the draft’s text,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“Moreover, the opponents considered that it would be justified to include a provision that blames ‘separatists’ for the current situation in southeast Ukraine: no separatists, no humanitarian problems,” the Russian Foreign Ministry explained.

“If the United States voted against the absolutely non-confrontational and reconciling draft, it means that its aim is to continue the armed confrontation in Ukraine. Its actions cannot be described otherwise than an attempt to ‘sabotage’ the humanitarian mission,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“The duality of this policy is obvious. Cynical disregard for the fates of peaceful civilians and a slapdash attitude to international humanitarian law when geopolitical interests are in question are becoming the core of a policy, which the United States and its European allies are pursuing towards Ukraine,” the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed.

Despite the Russian Foreign Ministry's statements that Moscow is working to bring peace to eastern Ukraine while Kiev and the West are working to continue the conflict, two things should be noted. The first is that Kiev, with the cooperation of the International Red Cross, have already delivered an aid convoy to Lugansk within the last week. The delivery of that convoy was incident free.

Russia, on the other hand, has been pouring weapons and soldiers across the border and has continued to build an invasion force just kilometers from Ukraine (here's just yesterday's evidence of that buildup). In the last week Ukrainian positions have been laced with artillery and mortars which are firing from inside Russian territory. Ukrainian soldiers say that they have orders not to fire back, and are taking heavy losses as a result. Insurgent positions in both Lugansk and Donetsk have been reinforced by fresh units of tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery. This equipment could only have come from Russia. A convoy of more than a dozen military transport vehicles, many towing field guns, have been spotted on the Russian side of the border and then again deep within Ukrainian territory. That convoy was escorted by an armored personnel carrier. Evidence and more evidence surfaced that Infantry Fighting Vehicles crewed by Russian airborne troops have even been captured in eastern Ukraine. 

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
NATO Says Russia Deploys Artillery Units Against Ukraine

Citing NATO officials, the New York Times reports the Russian military has moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory.

The West has long accused Russia of supporting the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, but this is the first time it has said it had evidence of the direct involvement of the Russian military.

The Russian move represents a significant escalation of the Kremlin’s involvement in the fighting there and comes as a convoy of Russian trucks with humanitarian provisions has crossed into Ukrainian territory without Kiev’s permission.

Since mid-August NATO has received multiple reports of the direct involvement of Russian forces, “including Russian airborne, air defense and special operations forces in Eastern Ukraine,” said Oana Lungescu, a spokeswoman for NATO.

“Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces,” she added.

NATO's full statement is here.

As we reported earlier, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made an urgent statement expressing growing concern over Russian's intentions regarding Ukraine, sparked by the developments of the "aid convoy."

The Interpreter has made repeated reports in recent months of Russian armored vehicles crossing into Ukraine and aiding pro-Russian separatists in the southeast.