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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 193

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.
Kiev Prepared to Turn Over Russian Soldiers If Moscow Admits They Are POWs
Authorities in Ukraine are prepared to turn over the Russian paratroopers from the 98th Svirsk Division of the Airborne Troops if Moscow will admit they are prisoners of war, and TV Rain reported.

A mother of one of the POWs -- Private Ivan Milchakov (see a transcript of his videotaped confession here) -- said that she received a call from a Ukrainian official. (Translation by The Interpreter).

"I received a phone call and was told that my son was alive and well. They were brought to Kiev yesterday. And then I was calmly told what the Ukrainian government wants personally from me. They want for Russia to admit that the boys, the paratroopers, are prisoners of war, that they took part in an armed conflict in the southeast of Ukraine. In that case, they are prepared to exchange them for Ukrainian POWs," said Milchakov's mother.

Milchakov's mother said that she first learned of her son's capture from an SMS text on her phone.

"The code of the country was "3," and then we realized that this was a foreign SMS, and then later on the Internet, on YouTube, there was a video in which I immediately recognized my son."

She also contacted the Svirsk Division commander about the whereabouts of her son, but they said they had no information.


Milchakov, born 1995, was among the 10 POWs seized 25 August near Zekalny in Amvrosievka District of Donetsk Region.

In his confession, which was coerced since he is in captivity, he says that they were sent on a 70-kilometer march and that they fell under not only mortar fire from Ukrainians, but Grad rockets from RF territory.

The Russian Defense Minister continues to claim that the soldiers wound up in Ukraine accidentally while patrolling the border.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Video Shows Motorola's Battalion Fighting Through Residential Area of Ilovaisk

As we reported earlier, the separatist battalion led by the fighter known as "Motorola" (Arsen Pavlov) was fighting in Ilovaisk in Donetsk Region this past week, surrounding Ukrainian troops.

The battle for Ilovaisk had begun August 18, when Ukrainian troops said they took the town.

On August 19, the fighting continued, and Semyon Semyonchenko, head of the Donbass battalion was seriously wounded. A Donbass Battalion volunteer, the Ukrainian-American Mark Paslawski and Mykola Berezovy, husband of Tetyana Chornovil, of the Azov Battalion were killed in this battle.

Another video of Motorola's battalion published on YouTube August 26 and evidently filmed on August 19 shows the separatist fighters rolling into residential areas of Ilovaisk on armored vehicles, then shooting their way through the residential streets of Ilovaisk.

At about 1:06 a fighter whose nick-name appears to be "Shustry" knees down and starts shooting down a street. Then he stops around 1:13, and when asked by his fellow fighter if it is "all clear" on this street, he replies hestitantly, around 1:24, "Listen, a local resident was injured." His buddy grunts, and then they move on. Did he shoot a civilian?

At 2:03, the separatists ask an old woman to give them some water and she pours cups for them. The camera man says he is filming the area -- the old lady, the houses, and the sky -- to prove that the town still exists, as press reports had said it was "wiped from the earth." This video is a perfect example of the difficulties created for counter-insurgency forces when separatists blend in with the civilian population.

Later, the separatist crew is seen repeatedly shooting off guns at houses, and some Shmels are seen at about 8:46, of the kind used for great damage in fighting in Dagestan.

Some of the fighters in the video have Caucasian accents.

The separatists throw grenades directly at houses at 13:25. The video is titled "Motorola's Division Throws Grenades at the Punitive Expedition" so they believe they are throwing them at Ukrainian soldiers.

This video has been confirmed as geolocated in Ilovaisk by the blogger @djp3tros who edits Ukraine@War.

The separatists are moving along Lermontov St. which can be seen on Google Maps here. At the end of Lermontov St. next to the building with the red roof and before the cross street, the church can be seen.

The church can be seen in the video at 5:52.


A geo-tagged photo of the same church can be found on Panoramio.


The camera angle can be seen on the map here:


Earlier in the video, the steeple of the church could be seen in the distance.


So Motorola and his men advanced along the road as follows:


Motorola, who became famous for being the first groom to get married in "Novorossiya," while recovering from a war wound, can be seen in the first few seconds and later at 15:37 with an AGS-17, an automatic grenade launcher.

The separatists then show off trophy weapons and vests they have captured from Ukrainian soldiers in the Azov and Donbass battalions, and a patch of a soldier's blood.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
4 Journalists Escape Ilovaisk Encirclement With Volunteer And Army Troops

The BBC Russian Service reports that four Ukrainian journalists have managed to escape the separatist encirclement of the town of Ilovaisk, where Ukrainian forces have been engaged in a bloody struggle for control of the town and are now surrounded.

Maksim Levin, a correspondent for Ukraine's Leviy Bereg ( wrote on his Facebook page:

"Friends, we cannot believe we are alive. Today I (, Markiyan Lysenko (Ukrinform), Ivan Lyubish-Kirdey and Georgiy Tikhiy (Germany's ARD TV) escaped from the encirclement in Ilovaisk and experienced a second birth."

The BBC continues:

According to him, they broke out in their own car together with fighters from volunteer battalions and soldiers. During the breakout their convoy was shelled, as a result of which, one Ukrainian tank was knocked out.


The journalists' car also came under fire, causing Levin to suffer minor injuries. 


"Thanks to our luck, or God (for those who believe) and our decision to join at the start of the convoy, we escaped from there," said the journalist.

Maksim Levin's wife Valentina confirmed, in comments to the BBC Ukrainian Service, that the journalists were save and were heading for Kiev.

Markiyan Lysenko said in an interview with the BBC Ukrainian Service that the four of them were in Volnovakha and would soon travel to the Ukrainian capital. 

According to Telekritika, there are three more Ukrainian journalists in the Ilovaisk area.

On August 25, Espresso TV journalist Yegor Vorobyov, cameraman Taras Chkan and Traffic Control journalist Rostislav Shaposhnikov entered the encirclement.

Maksim Levin wrote that the Ukrainian soldiers in the Ilovaisk encirclement are engaged in tough fighting and need immediate assistance.

Earlier, the commander of the Donbass battalion, Semyon Semyonchenko, wrote on Facebook that, during the breakout from Ilovaisk, a column of Ukrainian soldiers had fallen into an ambush.

"During the attempt to withdraw from Ilovaisk all the members of the battalions and the Armed Forces fell into an ambush. They established a defensive perimeter and are fighting," wrote Semyonchenko.

He appealed to the ATO leadership to assist the Ukrainian soldiers immediately.

The battle for Ilovaisk has been extremely violent and costly.

Here is footage (purportedly filmed on August 27) broadcast by Russia's LifeNews (long suspected of close ties to that country's security services) showing fighters from the separatist Motorola battalion fighting in residential areas of the town and using heavy weaponry including RPG-26 disposable anti-tank rocket launchers in the grounds of a school.

This footage has been geolocated by @djp3tros who writes the Ukraine At War blog. 

He has identified the building as School Number 13 in Ilovaisk by comparing features of the building with satellite photos. The location is on Google maps here.




These poles here:


Are also visible in this geotagged photo on Panoramio:


Today, Semyonchenko wrote on his Facebook page that despite original plans to assault the town with 800 troops and armoured units, the attacking force had ended up numbering only 340. He says that, had they received reinforcements, the whole town would be under Ukrainian control. He says that Russian-backed separatist fighters shelled the town with tanks, mortars and Grad, Smerch and Uragan rockets. He also described how Ukrainian fighters would kill themselves with their grenades to avoid capture (as reported earlier today) as the militants would brutally execute any captured volunteer fighters.

He blames the failure of the mission and the loss of lives on the negligence of Ukraine's military leadership, who he accuses of lying about the support provided to the embattled troops in Ilovaisk. Yesterday a protest, called for by Semyonchenko, was held outside the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Kiev.  Semyonchenko addressed the crowd by phone over a loudspeaker but urged civilised restraint, today describing those who broke windows and tore down fences as provocateurs.

On today's events, he wrote:

The commander of one of the groups that broke out from the town called me. They were attacked by seven Russian tanks and up to a battalion of infantry. They were attacked while moving. The attack was repulsed and 12 prisoners were taken. I've done all that I can for them. Now everything depends on their resilience and your prayers. It's too late now for someone to protest again. We just have to wait now.

All translations by The Interpreter.
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Separatists Claim To Have Captured Ukrainian SSBMs

Russia's LifeNews (which is suspected of close ties to state security services) reports that separatist fighters have told them that they have captured Tochka-U ballistic missiles from Ukrainian forces.

Their report says that Vladimir Kononov, the 'defence minister' of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) told them that separatist fighters have now captured two Tochka launchers with ballistic missiles. 

It was claimed that one system was captured following the separatist retaking of the strategically important Saur-Mogila kurgan, and another in Ilovaisk.

We have not seen reports of these seizures outside of Russian or separatist media and the possibility remains that the reports may be fabricated to provide the cover of plausible deniability for Russian deployment of such weapons.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
UK To Propose Blocking Russian Use of SWIFT Banking Network

Bloomberg reports, citing an unnamed official, that the British government will press European leaders to block Russian use of the SWIFT banking network at a meeting in Brussels tomorrow.

Here is an excerpt from their report:

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as SWIFT, is one of Russia’s main connections to the international financial system. Prime Minister David Cameron’s government plans to put the topic on the agenda for a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels tomorrow, according to the official, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

“Blocking Russia from the SWIFT system would be a very serious escalation in sanctions against Russia and would most certainly result in equally tough retaliatory actions by Russia,” said Chris Weafer, a senior partner at Moscow-based consulting firm Macro Advisory. “An exclusion from SWIFT would not block major trade deals but would cause problems in cross-border banking and that would disrupt trade flows.”

The move underscores Europe’s growing concern at Russia’s latest incursion into Ukraine, with casualties mounting amid the threat that conflict descends into an all-out war on the EU’s eastern flank. The U.K. wants the EU to respond by ratcheting up sanctions against Russia to bring them more into alignment with those imposed by the U.S., said the official.

The EU enrolled SWIFT as part of sanctions imposed on Iran in March 2012, prohibiting financial messaging providers from providing services to Iranian banks. SWIFT, based in Belgium, has to comply with EU decisions because the organization is incorporated under Belgian law. No one was immediately available for comment from SWIFT’s press office when contacted by phone today.

Bloomberg notes that, due to the threat of being cut off from the SWIFT network, Russia has already drafted a bill to introduce a new system for domestic bank transfers.