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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 205

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
Ukraine Says It Has Captured Two Russian Soldiers

Ukrainska Pravda reports that Andrei Lysenko, the spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council (SNBO) has announced at a briefing today that two Russian soldiers have been detained by Ukrainian forces.

Lysenko said (translated by The Interpreter):

"While conducting anti-terrorist operations in the ATO zone, fighters from the Lugansk-1 battalion captured two servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation, who are suspected of using MANPADS against Ukrainian military aircraft."

Lysenko gave no further details on the captured soldiers or their current situation. 
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Curfew On Mariupol Surroundings

Aleksandar Vasovic reports for Reuters that the authorities in Mariupol have announced a curfew today on movements at night around the approaches to the city.

The curfew, running from 8 pm to 6 am, will cover nearby towns and villages, and is aimed at preventing Russian or pro-Russian forces from carrying out reconnaissance or infiltration missions under the guise of civilian movements.

A Ukrainian military officer told Reuters:

"This is not martial law. We want them to show themselves. If someone is out there between 8pm and 6am we will know they are not civilians and we can take appropriate measures."

The report gives further details on the measures announced:

As well as the night-time curfew, city authorities have banned columns of vehicles and the transport of various kinds of equipment, imposed strict speed restrictions and increased document checks in those areas affected.

The measures apply to a string of villages and small towns to the east of Mariupol. The city is about 50 km (35 miles) from the Russian border.

The military officer said rebels had been using civilian vehicles to access Ukrainian positions for reconnaissance purposes and to transport men and supplies around the area.

At a checkpoint between Mariupol and the village of Sartana to the north of the city on Wednesday, men of the Azov volunteer militia were controlling traffic and checking documents.

"They check us and then they let us go, and we understand this because it is wartime," said Nikolay, a driver of a beaten-up Lada whose trunk was filled with watermelons.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Ukrainian Pilot And Film Director Could Be Part of Prisoner Exchange

Part of the ceasefire deal negotiated by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko includes clauses about a prisoner exchange. RFE/RL reports that two high-profile Ukrainian prisoners could be included in the swap:

Ukrainian air force pilot Nadiya Savchenko and film director Oleh Sentsov, who are in Russian custody, may be exchanged for pro-Russian rebels captured by Ukrainian forces in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The chief of Ukraine's Security Service, Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, told journalists on September 10 that Savchenko and Sentsov are on a list of people to be exchanged...

There was no immediate comment from Russia, which has charged Savchenko with complicity in the deaths of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine.

Sentsov has been charged with planning terrorist attacks in Crimea after it was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in March.
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Despite Russian Media's Spin, New Report Suggests BUK Missle Downed MH17

UPDATE: Before the release of yesterday's Dutch Safety Board report on the cause of the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, there was already highly-compelling evidence that MH17 was shot down by a BUK anti-aircraft missile operated by Russian-backed rebels. Certain details of yesterday's reports add new forensic evidence that a BUK was indeed responsible for the downing of the civilian airliner (see yesterday's coverage for details).

The investigation concluded that MH17's fuselage was penetrated by large amounts of "high-energy objects," projectiles while entered the aircraft from the outside. The BUK is an advanced aircraft system that tracks its targets using radar and detonates when it is close to its target, triggered through a radar-proximity fuse. It's warhead is a high-explosive fragmentation device weighing in at 70 kg,(154.3 Lbs), which sends shrapnel out at high-velocity, literally shredding the target. Weapons experts we consulted all agree that the tell-tale sign of this weapon being used would be large quantities of relatively small impact puncture sites in the fuselage of the aircraft (unlike an autocannon, which would leave a smaller amount of larger impact sites in a more linear pattern, or a heat-seeking missile which would impact the engines rather than tear the aircraft apart). 

After the shooting down of MH17, the Russian media made multiple changing and largely contradictory claims about what could have brought down the airliner. The theory eventually put our by the Russian government is that one Ukrainian SU-25 followed MH17 and may have fired an air-to-air missile (or some have suggested an autocannon) at the civilian aircraft, while a second SU-25 circled the crash site afterwards. That theory was debunked at the time, but the new forensic evidence rules this out. Professor Mark Galeotti explained in July why the Russian theory did not match the facts, and as we see his argument is even more relevant with the release of the Dutch report:

A Su-25 is a ground-attack aircraft. Yes, it can be armed with air-to-air missiles such as the R-60 ‘Aphid’, but its 3kg warhead—compared with the SA-11 Buk’s 70kg—is extremely unlikely to have done the damage visible on MH17. Eyewitness and photographic evidence from the crash site demonstrates a very broad and deep fragmentation pattern. Both the Buk’s 98M38 or 98M317 missiles and the R-60 are designed to explode just before impact to blast the target with shrapnel, but the size, pattern and above all quantity and kinetic energy of the two weapons’ warheads are very different.

Nor necessarily is an R-60 at all likely to have brought a Boeing 777 down with one hit. The KAL 007 747 brought down by Soviet fighters in 1983 was hit by two heavier R-98 missiles (with 40kg warheads) and still did not suffer the immediate, catastrophic destruction evident for MH17. Overall, the damage clearly points to a larger weapon than the R-60.

Kyiv Post has interviewed yet another expert who suggests that the Dutch Safety Board report suggests that the weapon used in this attack was a BUK:

The report does not directly identify what the object was, but Viacheslav Tseluiko, an expert on non-state armed groups, said that it was clear that it was a Buk missile that had caused the damage. 

“The aircraft was damaged from the outside according to the report and basically the Dutch are saying that the plane was shot down by fragments of a Buk missile,” he said.

A Buk missile functions by exploding near its target and showering it with shrapnel. 

In our comprehensive evidence review of the downing of flight MH17, we show how both eyewitness reports and citizen-uploaded videos and pictures prove that the BUK traveled through Donetsk, on to Torez and Snezhnoye where it was spotted by AP journalists and many eyewitnesses (from where it is theorized that it shot down MH17), and then it traveled on to Luganks, Krasnadon, and out to Russia through the Izvarino crossing. 

The BBC has released new evidence, testimony from eyewitnesses who confirm that the BUK system was spotted in the Snezhnoye/Torez area, and the crews manning the vehicle spoke Russian with accents that suggest that they were Russian soldiers from the Russian Federation:

Three eyewitnesses, all civilians, separately told Panorama that they saw a missile-launcher in rebel-held territory a few hours before the Boeing jet was hit.

One eyewitness saw the missile-launcher roll off a low-loader at Snezhnoye, around ten miles from the crash site, at around 13:30 local time (10:30 GMT).

"We just saw it being offloaded and when the BUK started its engine the exhaust smoke filled the whole town square," he said.

The eyewitness told the BBC that the crew struck him as Russian soldiers: "Well-disciplined, unlike the rebels, and not wearing the standard Ukrainian camouflage uniform sported by government and rebel troops alike."

"They had pure Russian accents. They say the letter 'g' differently to us," he said.

Of course, flying in the face of all of the evidence, witness and expert testimony, and common sense, the Russian media continues to spin the story and claim that the civilian airliner was brought down by machinegun fire, not a missile. RIA Novosti, the formerly-respected news agency which was reorganized under the direct control of a pro-Kremlin propagandist, reports:

The preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) on the Malaysian MH17 crash suggests that the plane was not brought down by a missile, Michel Chossudovsky, director of the Center for Research on Globalization told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

"The conclusion of the report by the Dutch Safety Board confirms earlier independent reports to the effect that the Malaysian airlines flight was not brought down by a missile," Chossudovsky said, quoting the DSB statement: “the aircraft was penetrated by a large number of high-energy objects from outside. It’s likely that this damage resulted in a loss of structural integrity of the aircraft, leading to an in-flight break up”.

"This paragraph dispels the notion that it was a missile attack, and that's what is important," Chossudovsky asserted.

Chossudovsky also thinks that the report confirms the earlier statement of the Head of mission of the OSCE who pointed to "machine gun-like holes."

New York University Professor Mark Galeotti told The Interpreter today that this theory is simply not supported by the facts:

It is wholly implausible that an Su-25's GSh-30-2 25mm autocannon would have done the kind of damage visible on MH17. The pattern of impacts would be very different. Furthermore, the cockpit recordings indicate no alarm on the part of the flight crew. Even if an Su-25 could approach unnoticed (not that hard, admittedly), it's extremely unlikely that it could fire a burst of 390-gramme shells that would both fragment the aircraft and kill both of the pilots before they had the chance even to express their shock. That, to me, helps clinch that the plane was ripped apart by a large stand-off warhead shattering its aerodynamic integrity in an instant, catastrophic blast of shrapnel. 

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russia's Gazprom Cuts Poland's Supply Of Gas By 20-24%
Has Russia made its first pre-winter retaliation against Europe's natural gas supply?

Bloomberg confirms that Poland's gas supplies have indeed been cut between 20-24%, but explains that Gazprom is claiming that this is simply due to "maintenance." 

Gazprom is doing pre-winter maintenance on pipelines and filling Russian storage sites, which is limiting supply to Poland at the level of the end of last week, according to a company official who declined to be named, citing policy. Russia is reducing flows to the European Union to restrict so-called reverse supply to Ukraine, said Ihor Prokopiv, the chief executive officer of UkrTransGas. Poland today halted supply to Ukraine of 4 million cubic meters (140 million cubic feet) a day, he said.

Russia, which meets about 15 percent of Europe’s gas demand through Soviet-era pipelines across Ukraine, halted supplies to its neighbor on June 16 in a dispute over debt and prices, echoing spats in 2006 and 2009 that left European customers short of fuel.

Michael Murphy, a spokesman at RWE AG in Essen, Germany, declined to comment on reverse flow to Ukraine from Poland. RWE started supplies to Ukraine via Poland in April.

Gazprom assumes countries that get their gas via Ukraine understood the possible risks in the spring and filled up storage sites at a faster pace, Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for the Russian pipeline gas export monopoly, said by phone on Sept. 3.
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