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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 203

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.
Further on 'Ruslan Ruslanchenko,' Donbass and Azov Battalions

Earlier today, we had a post about a claim from "Ruslan Ruslanchenko" that the Azov Battalion may have broken the ceasefire in Mariupol which drew some puzzled responses.

Translation: Commander of #Azov from besieged #Mariupol accuses the command of betrayal. Fascists are making accusations? Some sort of pun. #ATO #DPR.

This is a reference to a common portrayal of Azov as fascistic, which Western journalists have covered with fascination and has magnified as helpful war propaganda; indeed Azov uses Nazi-like symbols and is known for its ultranationalist ideology.

Whatever its extreme beliefs, Azov does not appear to have committed any atrocities, however; in fact, a good number of its idealistic recruits are getting killed in battle.

The volunteer battalions also believe they are being betrayed by the top brass -- it's a common theory that they are being sacrificed in the war and not given artillery back-up by regular troops. Conspiracies range from saying the zealous battalions are "projects of the Kremlin" (radicalization agents to discredit pro-Kiev forces) or sacrificed by a leadership that does not want to deal with their extremism after the war.

Translation:  #Azov: All of our miserable equipment is destroyed. There are 200s [dead]. We worked under heavy fire, thanks to the spotter-betrayers.

The account @ru_988 is said to be run by Ruslan Ruslanchenko, presumably a nom de guerre modeled after Semyon Semyonchenko, the pseudonym for the commander of the Donbass Battalion and other members of this battalion (it is meant to sound like a typically Ukrainian name).

Ruslanchenko is the zampolit or political officer for the battalion, a job that in the Soviet era meant responsibility for political indoctrination and surveillance of troops, but today is something more like communications and morale.

From other sources, we know that on September 4, near the towns on the road to Mariupol, the Russian troops shelled Ukrainian positions and destroyed one of the positions of Azov and the border service near Novoazovsk, as reported. Generals who said they would send back-up with artillery did not come through, said the soldiers.  At about 14:00,  Russian forces attacked Bezymyonnoye.

Then on Friday morning, before the ceasefire began (it didn't go into effect until 18:00 Kiev time), the Azov Battalion went on the counter-offensive, according to a story from posted at 11:29 am on September 5.

Ruslanchenko himself had some doubt as to what happened later then over the weekend during the supposed ceasefire, as he himself tweeted:

Translation: 12 and 13 checkpoints (C-side) #Mariupol are under shelling again. I don't know if the Russkies are shelling themselves with Grads again or the morons from Azov -- but it's scary.

There is rivalry among battalions and tensions between the Russian-speaking and Ukrainian battalions; and tension between the volunteer brigades and the commanders.

This kind of gallows humor using a screenshot from a cooking show on TV summarizes what many of the men feel -- the phrase for "cannon fodder" in Russian is literally "cannon meat," and "kettle" means encirclement by armed forces.

Translation: Let's throw meat in the kettle, like Valeriy Heletey [Defense Minister].

This kind of sardonic humor runs through the timeline and causes some people to question loyalties:

Translation: "Jarosz is alive!" Uh-huh, they write the same thing about Tsoi.

Viktor Tsoi, a famous rock musician, died in 1990. Dmitro Jarosz is the head of the Azov Battalion, who is rumored to have been seriously injured in battle.

But earlier, Ruslanchenko had written more seriously:

Translation: There really is trouble with comrade #Jarosz. I can't say everything, the Russkies are lying about his death, but his condition is really serious. That's why he's not online.

Other tweets in the timeline aren't exactly Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, but they are on the same bookshelf:

Translation: I've decided nonetheless to behave as a real battle officer and shoot myself, but then I realized that my pistol was stolen -- and I had second thoughts. #ATO.

Translation: we will not allow provocateurs and Kremlin hirelings to abandon our President under various supposedly 'patriotic' pretexts. Poroshenko is the best!

Translation: Ludmila Ludmilchenko, my war buddy, is a nurse and PPZh (marching field wife). Envy me, Cotton!

Ukrainians use a pejorative word for Russians, vata or vatnik, which means cotton or cotton jacket, of the style worn by Russian workers.

Translation: #Lugansk via youtube. I wouldn't want to fight these wolves, these aren't intellectual Odessa colorado beetles.

"Colorado beetles" is a pejorative term used by Ukrainians about Russians who wear the orange-and-black striped St. George ribbons adopted by nationalists in Russia and separatists in Ukraine.

Translation: When I pass by, I usually cry.

The statue is that of Stepan Bandera, the controversial historical figure who is a war hero for some Ukrainians, but documented as committing atrocities by historians. Russian propaganda calls all Ukrainians supporting Kiev

Translation: Provocateurs disseminate information that while I was held captive I was recruited. This is a lie! Even so they don't want to ask Parasyuk how he got out of #Ilovaisk.

In this and other outraged tweets, Ruslanchenko likely means Andrey Panasyuk, a young man who was captured by the Russian-backed separatists, interrogated, humiliated and filmed by a Russian journalist himself later killed, yet another polarizing story from the war.

Translation: A terrible night! If it is confirmed that the Russkies have taken #Volnovakha it means two of my volunteer buddies were killed at the checkpoint at the entrance.

The Donbass Battalion has indeed suffered enormous losses, both in battles and coming out of the "kettle" through the "humanitarian corridor" where they were said to be betrayed by Russian forces who ambushed them.

Earlier tweets in April on this account had many reports of separatist successes in towns throughout the Donbass, and it is not clear whether these are tweeted out of alarm or admiration.

Thus, a tour of Ruslanchenko's timeline is a window into the complexities and contradictions and horrors of this war, and nothing can be said definitively about who betrayed whom, and the breaking of the ceasefire.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Bridge Blown Out on Road to Mariupol
A bridge was blown up about 30 kilometers from Mariupol, on the road to the village of Pavlopol, the local news site reported.


Local residents reported (translation by The Interpreter):

"Glass has blown out in many homes in Pavlopole, and the plaster has crumbled. The roof has been damaged," eyewitnesses noted.

Passage to the villages of Chermalyk and Orlovskoye is closed, although the pedestrian road is not affected.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
EU Passes Sanctions Against Russia, But May Freeze if Ceasefire Holds

The European Union decided to impose new economic sanctions on Russia last Friday, September 5 but said they could be suspended if Moscow withdraws its troops from Ukraine and observes a ceasefire, reported.

Earlier UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that regardless if the ceasfire was enforced, sanctions against Russia would be enforced.

Reuters then reported this evening September 8 that the EU formally adopted the new package of sanctions, and they will enter into effect "in the next few days."

The EU sanctions would affect Russia's top oil producers and pipeline operators Rosneft, Transneft and Gazprom Neft, which would be put on the list of Russian state-owned firms that will not be allowed to raise capital or borrow on European markets, an EU diplomat said.

The sanctions, however, would not encompass the gas sector and in particular state-owned Gazprom, the world's biggest gas producer which is also the biggest gas supplier to Europe.

EU President Herman Van Rompu commented on the dynamics of the sanction imposition, said Reuters:

"The entry into force (of the new sanctions) through the publication in the Official Journal will take place in the next few days. This will leave time for an assessment of the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the peace plan. Depending on the situation on the ground, the EU stands ready to review the agreed sanctions in whole or in part."

Both Russian and the insurgent movement it backs in Donbass have accused Ukraine of breaking the ceasefire in Donetsk, but the Ukrainian government points to shelling by Russian forces in Mariupol in violation of the Minsk agreement.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
New Russian Military Convoy Appears in Perevalsk

We reported earlier today about a video uploaded of a 'Novorossiya' parade, where a T-72BM tank was clearly visible, recognizable by its distinctive reactive armour array on the turret. This tank has not been exported outside Russia and so cannot plausibly said to have been "stolen from the Ukrainian army."

Now another new video of the parade has become available, which suggests that a Russian Federation military convoy was given to Russian-backed fighters. The video was uploaded to YouTube today, September 8, and is titled "Review of Kozitsin's Cossacks." This is a reference to Nikolai (Mykola) Kozitsin, a Cossack commander of the Russian-backed fighters. (Kozitsin previously figured in an intercept of conversations made by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) about the downing of the MH17.)

This video has not previously appeared in Google image search, its meta-data shows the date as September 8, 2014, and internally, the speaker narrating the parade can be heard repeatedly wishing people "Happy Holiday." This is a reference to the Battle of Borodino of September 7, 1812, celebrated on September 8 in Russia as "Military Glory Day."

The video has been geolocated to this position on Google Maps in Perevalsk, Lugank Region for The Interpreter by @djp3tros, the blogger at Ukraine@War.


The building shown in the video behind the truck with the tarpaulin matches that of the Gornyak House of Culture on Panoramio.



The vehicles show some of the bright green paint used in past videos of Russian convoys to blot out the identifying information on the vehicles.

The symbol at 0:28 in white paint may be the Russian paratroopers' symbol.

A fighter in a Cossack-type hat can be seen at 1:46.

The martial music is playing on a loudspeaker on the scene, and the voice is praising the fighters as they go by, and crying "Glory to God!" and describing the weapons, i.e. mortars.

A decal on the truck at 2:15 looks like it was a Russian tricolor poorly scraped off. At 2:35 is a vehicle with the Russian flag and another unidentified red flag.

At 2:52, the speaker says the vehicle "was the Dillweeds' but is now ours." [Ukropy, the Russian word for "dillweeds" is a pejorative word for Ukrainians,  --The Interpreter].

While the Russian-backed separatists claim they steal military equipment from the Ukrainian army rather than getting it from the Russian army, in some cases as with the T-72BM it can be shown the armor is not exported. In this case, the painting over of the insignia likely disguises the Russian origin.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Amnesty International Says Russia Fueling The Conflict, War Crimes Committed

Amnesty International has released a report which says that Russia is fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine, a conflict in which war crimes have been committed by both sides:

“Our evidence shows that Russia is fueling the conflict, both through direct interference and by supporting the separatists in the East. Russia must stop the steady flow of weapons and other support to an insurgent force heavily implicated in gross human rights violations.”

The report includes satellite images which reportedly show Russian military vehicles and artillery engaged in battles, often resulting in indiscriminate shelling and civilian casualties.

The images show new artillery positions being established just inside the Ukrainian border between 13 and 29 August, including what appear to be 122-mm Howitzer D-30 artillery units in firing positions pointed toward the west. Two of the positions have a support vehicle and what looks like bunkers. On 29 August, six armoured amphibious vehicles (likely BRDM-2s) can be seen.

Another similar artillery position can be seen in a field northeast of the first, also within Ukrainian territory. Imagery from 26 August 2014 shows six relatively advanced self-propelled howitzers (likely 2S19 Msta-S 152-mm) in firing positions facing southwest at Ukrainian army locations.

Between 26 and 29 August 2014 the artillery has been moved into a west facing firing position still within Ukraine. On August 29 the imagery shows what look like numerous military vehicles in the area along the tree line and in the neighboring field.

“These satellite images, coupled with reports of Russian troops captured inside Ukraine and eyewitness accounts of Russian troops and military vehicles rolling across the border, leave no doubt that this is now an international armed conflict,” said Shetty. 


Read the entire report here.