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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 211

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.
'People's Republics' Create 'Unified Army of Novorossiya' in Donbass

The self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" (DPR) and "Lugansk People's Republic" (LPR) have announced they are creating the "Unified Army of Novorossiya" (OAN), according to a statement on DNR Today, which is said to be "the official site and press center of the Government and Supreme Council of the DPR."

The statement said the "armies of the DPR and LPR" would merge into the OAN which will "enable the armed forces of Novorosssiya to resolve the most complex tasks in defending their native land from Ukrainian fascism and also help bring liberation to the land which was enslaved by Nazi filth."

The "Law on the Special Status of Certain Districts in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions" provides for "the establishment of local militias" but it was not clear whether that meant regular police or DPR-style militias, and whether there would be armed forces.

The "Novorossiya" statement is as follows (translation by The Interpreter)

Fulfilling the will of the people, expressed by representatives of the deputies' corps of Novorissya, and also, taking into account the extreme necessity of creating united armed forces of Novorossiya, enabling the resolution of the task of both defense of the republics of the DPR and LPR, and also the ensuing offensive, in order to liberate the peoples of Novorossiya and Ukraine from the yoke of Nazism and oligarchs,
We, commanders of the voluntary military formations of the peoples' republics, acting on the basis of the population will,

1) passed a decision to create the United Armed Forces of Novorossiya

2) passed a decision to appoint Lt. Gen. Ivan Anatolyevich Korsun as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces;

3) passed a decision to assign Lt. Gen. Ivan Anatolyevich Korsun, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Novorossiya to conduct a complex of necessary organizational activities to implement this resolution in the shortest time possible.

So now the aspirational "Novorossiya" has a united parliament and a united army, but the two "people's republics" have not merged and remain as distinct "city-states."

Note that the job of overseeing the reorganization of the forces of "Novorossiya," once said by Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko to be offered to Col. Igor Strelkov, is now given to another figure, Lt. Gen. Korsun.

Not much has been heard from him before as the independent Russian news site says and yet a recent interview with him in the local media reveals him to be an extreme hardliner not only with aspirations beyond the Lugansk and Donetsk to other western Ukrainian cities, but with determination to install a Soviet-style economy with nationalization of all private industry and draconian police practices to root out corruption, starting in 'Novorossiya''s own ranks. (See our Russia This Week blog for excerpts.)

The statement on the OAN has been signed by Lt. Gen. Igor Bezler, commander of the Gorlovka Militia, Aleksandr Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, Aleksandr Matyushin, commander of the Varyag Battalion; Konstantin Kuzmin, commander of the Shakhtyorsk Division, and V. Khalin.

The first two are well known to regional and Western media, but the last three much less so. (See our Russia This Week blog for more background and the reaction of deposed Col. Igor Strelkov.)

Nothing is said in the statement about Aleksandr Zakharchenko, who was brought in as "prime minister" or the current commander-in-chief, Vladimir Kononov, who had the nom de guerre "Tsar," which has interpreted by some to mean that a coup has taken place in "Novorossiya."

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukrainians Commemorate Murdered Journalist Georgy Gongadze, Still Awaiting Justice
Ukrainians commemorated today the 14th anniversary of the kidnapping and murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze.

President Petro Poroshenko knelt before a memorial wreath, and people placed signs and candles in his memory.

Translation: Now on Maidan is the traditional commemoration of Georgiy Gongadze and all journalists killed for their professional activity.
Translation: Activists on Maidan are reminding the authorities of the Gongadze case.
Translation: Today we remember Georgiy Gongadze, a great and brave man who fought for Ukraine! Heroes do not die!

Translation: Above is the number of journalists who died during independence, and below -- you know what. We remember.

The candles below spell out with Ukrainian letters "Giya" which was Georgiy's nickname.

Translation: There is an evening of recollection on Maidan for G. Gongadze. Come.
Translation: "I am a Georgian, but if necessary, I will give my life for Ukraine." Georgiy Gongadze. 14 years not with us. Eternal memory!

Translation: Today in Kiev respects are paid to the memory of Georgiy Gongadze and other killed journalists.

Gongadze's murder rocked Ukraine under the leadership of then President Leonid Kuchma and became a cause celebre for those seeking press freedom and safety for investigative journalists. The journalist went missing and then his decapitated body was found later in a forest.

Audiotapes later were released by opposition politician Oleksandr Moroz, made by Kuchma's former bodyguard, Nikolai Melnichenko, in which Kuchma, Volodymyr Lytvyn and other officials were heard discussing the need to silence Gongadze over his reports of high-level corruption.

Right before he was supposed to testify in the murder investigation, former Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko was killed, and four of his subordinates were later charged and sentenced with Gongadze's murder. Gongadze's family believe the masterminds of the murder were never caught. Mass protests then broke out in September 2002 on the second anniversary of Gongadze's death, seeking justice and the resignation of Kuchma. Repeated efforts to link Kuchma to the murder through Ukrainian courts have failed.

In 2013, the first deputy prosecutor general said he had enough evidence to confirm Kuchma's responsibility for ordering Gongadze's assassination; on 9 July 2014, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Vitaliy Yarema stated that his office would revisit investigations  "that were dropped unlawfully", including the Gongadze murder.

In an editorial for the Kyiv Post, Brian Bonner wrote on May 27 that the "acid test" for Poroshenko would be putting Kuchma on trial:

Poroshenko should let prosecutors go ahead and put Kuchma on trial for ordering the Sept. 16, 2000 murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze, who was killed to send a message to everyone else that free speech and public criticism of a president will not be tolerated.

All evidence in the last nearly 14 years points to Kuchma as having ordered the crime. Prosecutors have said as much. He claims he is innocent.

There is only one fair way to find out: Put him on trial and let the evidence come out publicly in a fair, judicial hearing. The charges have been blocked for political reasons. And, for political reasons, the trial must go ahead if Ukraine is to ever start coming to grips with a sorry past so it can move forward to a brighter future.

The mere act of putting Kuchma on trial will signal to everyone in Ukraine that business as usual is over and that no one is above the law, especially when it comes to murder.

Kuchma was named a negotiator to the Minsk talks with Russian-backed separatists which concluded a ceasefire agreement September 5.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
More Shelling Reported In Donetsk Today

There have been multiple reports of shelling in the separatist-held city of Donetsk today, despite the ceasefire. 

This morning, Donetsk news site reported that shelling could be heard in the Leninsky, Petrovsky and Kirovsky districts of the city. 

There as no suggestion in their report as to which side was responsible for these attacks. 

Andrei Lysenko, the spokesman for the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council (SNBO), told reporters at a briefing today that separatist and Russian forces were continuing to shell the Kuybyshevsky and Kievsky districts with heavy weapons. 

Lysenko said that 3 civilians had been killed over the past day.  

Meanwhile, the pro-separatist Anna News YouTube channel, uploaded a video today, which it claimed showed the burnt out remains of the Budyonnovsky meat market, to the south-east of the city centre, after being shelled by Ukrainian forces.

However the video in fact appears to show the Putilovsky market just south-east of the airport, which has been under frequent attack by Russian forces, on the other side of the city, which was struck by shelling on September 14.

Here is a quick comparison of a still from the Anna News video, and one from Putilovsky uploaded yesterday:



The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Rada Passes Lustration Bill While Protesters Gather Outside

The Verkhovna Rada has passed the much-called-for lustration bill with 231 deputies voting in favour, none against or abstaining, and 15 absent.

Ukrainska Pravda reports (translated by The Interpreter):

Previously, deputies had failed to vote on the bill at its second reading, but they were able, after several attempts, to return to it.

The Speaker of parliament, Oleksandr Turchynov, told deputies that he would not let them out of the hall until the issue of lustration is passed.

Oleh Tyhanybok, the leader of the Svoboda party, urged deputies to accept "this, less strict version, lest a harsher one be passed tomorrow."

Outside the Rada, protesters had gathered, both to call for the passing of the bill, and to express anger at the granting of a special status of self-governance to the eastern regions under separatist control, which has been seen by many as capitulation to Russian demands.

Translation: In front of the Rada, a small scuffle between police and protesters, eggs are flying at the police.

In scenes echoing (on a vastly reduced scale) the Maidan protests of the winter, protesters set fire to a pile of tyres:

Translation: They've now set fire to tyres in front of the Rada itself

Flags of the far-right Praviy Sector and the Svoboda party are visible amongst the protesters.

Vitaliy Zhuravsky, a former member of deposed President Viktor Yanukovch's Party of Regions, author of the January 16 bill that restricted Ukrainians' right to protest, was seized by protesters and thrown into a bin outside the parliament.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Creates Military Group for Occupied Crimea
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has announced the creation of a military group in occupied Crimea which he considers part of Russia's South Military District, BBC Russian Service reported.

Shoigu spoke of the "growing necessity" for such a group as the "Rapid Trident- 2014" exercises take place in nearby Lvov Region with Ukraine, US, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, UK, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania and Spain (translation by The Interpreter):

"The military-political situation in the South West strategic direction from early this year has substantially changed. This is largely connected with the expansion of the territory of the South Military District after Crimea's entry into Russia. Moreover, the situation in Ukraine has become sharply aggravated and there is an increase of a foreign military presence in immediate proximity to our border."

Russia began staging large military exercises near the Ukrainian border shortly before the forcible annexation of the Crimea and has repeatedly staged such exercises as well as amassed large amounts of armor near the border. Russian then began making regular invasions of Ukraine in August.

Shoigu said that by 2020, a "full-fledged and self-sufficient" group would be deployed on the Crimean peninsula.

When "little green men" began to make their appearance in the Crimea in February, Shoigu discounted their relationship to Russian armed forces, although later President Vladimir Putin himself admitted their presence.