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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 212

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.
Which MEPs Voted Against The Association Agreement With Ukraine?

VoteWatch Europe has today published the full details of voting by members of the European Parliament (MEPs) during the ratification of the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine.

The Association Agreement, which was finally ratified simultaneously by both the Verkhovna Rada in Kiev and the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday, was, almost 10 months earlier, the cause for which the Maidan protests were called that toppled then-President Viktor Yanukovych after he announced the suspension of preparations for signing the deal on November 21, 2013.

In total, 535 MEPs voted for the ratification, 127 against, and 34 abstained.

The two political groups in the European Parliament from which the most votes against the agreement came were the populist, predominantly nationalist Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) and the hard-left European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL).

The largest number of dissenting votes came from the Non-Inscrits, MEPs from parties unaligned with wider European political blocs.

These included MEPs from France's neo-Vichyist Front National, Italy's right-wing, regionalist Lega Nord, Austria's far-right FPÖ, formerly lead by the late Jörg Haider, Germany's neo-Nazi NPD, Belgium's far-right, regionalist Vlaams Belang (formerly Vlaams Blok), The Netherlands' far-right PVV,  Poland's right-wing libertarian Kongres Nowej Prawicy, Hungary's neo-Nazi Jobbik, and Greece's Communist Party and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.

Among the GUE/NGL dissenters were MEPs from hard-left and communist parties in France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Portugal, and The Netherlands, as well as Sinn Fein MEPs from Ireland and the UK.

The EFDD dissenters were made up, for the most part, by MEPs from the populist and nationalist UK Independence Party (UKIP), the remainder by the Eurosceptic, libertarian-leaning Party of Free Citizens from the Czech Republic, and Sweden’s far-right Swedish Democrats.

Two of the MEPs who voted against the agreement, Aymeric Chauprade and Tatjana Ždanovka, travelled to Crimea in March to act as ‘international observers’ for the shotgun referendum on unification with Russia, organised days after Russian soldiers took over the peninsular.

Chauprade is a geopolitical theorist and member of Front National, and Ždanovka, once a member of the Communist Party, opposed Latvia’s independence from the Soviet Union and is now a member of the Latvian Russian Union, a left-wing political party that allies itself closely with Russian interests.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
OSCE Reports on 'Stakhanov People's Republic' Amidst Conflicting Local News Accounts

The OSCE monitors have reported on the formation of the "Stakhanov People's Republic" which is reportedly splitting from the "Lugansk People's Republic."

A number of local sources are questioning whether this is a joke or disinformation, and a local news agency is discounting the report.

On the other hand, pro-separatists sources are reporting that the town of Stakhanov did secede from the "Lugansk People's Republic."

And a rally of Cossack fighters was held in Stakhanov today making clear that they wanted to take power.

Note that soon after the OSCE report was filed, fighting did break out in Schastye as the LPR army, supported by Russian Federation armor and artillery, attacked the city, as we reported early.

Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 16 September 2014

The situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions remained volatile. The SMM observed a demonstration in front of the Ukrainian parliament in favour of lustration, and received accounts about searches conducted in the office of the Mejlis in Simferopol.

A high-ranking Ukrainian official from a law enforcement agency, who talked to the SMM in Starobilsk (96km north of Luhansk), claimed, consistent with information also carried by local media, that an independent ‘Republic of Stakhanov’ (60km west of Luhansk) had been proclaimed on 14 September, thus ‘seceding’ from the area claimed by ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’.

The commander of the checkpoint in Shchastya (23km north of Luhansk) did not report any recent breaches of Minsk Protocol on ‘non-use of weapons’. The local population of the town claimed, however, that intoxicated soldiers of the volunteer Ukrainian battalion ‘Aidar’ were shooting randomly in the nearby power plant nightly.

In Donetsk the SMM saw evidence of shelling in two places in the Kuibyshevskyi district of the city. Near the building of the local fire brigade unit, branches of trees were lying, covering a crater of some 1.5 meters breadth and 0.4 m depth, located about 25 meters from the building. Marks of shrapnel were noticed on the walls of the building, both inside and outside. Furniture inside the rooms was damaged. All windows from two sides of the building were smashed. The chief of the fire brigade unit stated that the building had been shelled on 15 September 2014, and that two fire brigade trucks had been damaged but remained operational. He also said that one guard from a neighbouring factory had been injured – this claim was later confirmed to the SMM by the deputy director of the factory.

Inside the factory yard, about 50 meters from the main gate, the SMM noticed a crater caused by the explosion of an alleged artillery shell, similar to the evidence near the fire brigade unit. Again, shrapnel damage was observed on the walls of the building. Six windows were smashed.

In another place in the district, the SMM saw five craters in an area of 25 square meters, all similar: 1.5 meters breadth and 0.4 m depth. People met by the SMM said that three persons had been killed during the shelling, which they said had occurred on 15 September at around 17:30. Marks of shrapnel were observed all around the area. Windows of buildings, a garage and a private firm were smashed. The SMM observed bloodstains near the main door of a garage at the scene. Parts of a wall had fallen. The owner of the car service located in the premises claimed that four of his cars and six belonging to a private funeral service had been destroyed.

The SMM, while observing a Ukrainian roadblock in Debaltseve (75km north-east of Donetsk), heard single four to five rifle grenade launcher shots towards the positions of the Ukrainian army. No casualties were reported. In nearby Vuhlehirsk (62km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM observed few people on the streets, together with several damaged buildings and electricity lines.

The situation in Mariupol continued to be calm, with people working and most shops well stocked and open for business. The SMM conducted a patrol to the checkpoints ‘Skhidnyi’ (500 meters east of Mariupol) and ‘Staryi Shlyakh’ (2km north-east). Checkpoint personnel described the situation as generally calm, but claimed that sounds of shooting from the east had been heard in the night.

The situation in Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv was calm.

The deputy head of the Emergency State Services in the Odessa region informed the SMM that 12,200 IDPs were currently registered in the region; but the authorities estimated that the real number was three times higher. He said that there was a rapid increase (by 60%) in numbers of registered IDPs in the last three weeks – UNCHR reported 7,620 IDPs as of 28 August. The official explained this situation by the necessity to register children for school enrolment. In addition, the official estimated that between 28 August and 15 September, 2,770 IDPs, both registered and non-registered, left the Odessa region.

The SMM observed a demonstration in front of the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv of approximately 300 people, including members of the ‘Automaidan’ movement and Right Sector. The participants of the rally demanded adoption of the law on lustration. Approximately 300 members of various Ukrainian law enforcement structures - police, the Kyiv-1 Battalion, and the National Guard - were present at the scene. During the afternoon protesters remained but started expressing tougher messages, including physical threats towards MPs, apparently with the intention to urge them to pass the lustration law. The SMM saw that some of them were piling up tires near the Parliament, and that the law enforcement agencies had deployed additional personnel around the Parliament. The Parliament successfully passed the Law on Lustration at the end of the day.

The head of Crimean Tatars’ Mejlis confirmed to the SMM media reports that the building of the Mejlis in Simferopol, and houses of two Mejlis members, had been searched by the Russian Federation’s Federal Security Service.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Fighting Continues Around Donetsk Airport And The Petrovsky District

The official website for the Donetsk city council has published a report on the situation in the city as of 18:00 (15:00 GMT).

As of 18:00, the situation remains tense in Donetsk. According to residents' reports, repeated salvoes from heavy weapons have been heard in many districts. The epicentres of the fighting still remain the airport and the Petrovsky district.

The report notes that, despite the fighting, emergency repair crews continue to work to restore gas supplies to damaged areas. 1,351 homes remain without gas.

The airport, to the north of the city, which is held by Ukrainian forces, has been under regular attack throughout the ceasefire period, with heavy shelling reported this morning

Meanwhile the Petrovsky district lies on the south-western periphery of the city, and has been on the front line between Ukrainian forces which entered the Marinka suburb last month and Russian-backed separatist fighters.

Translation by The Interpreter.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Schastye, Novoaidar And Severodonetsk Without Power Following Shelling

Ukrainska Pravda reports that the press centre for Ukraine's Northern operational command has announced that three settlements in the Lugansk region are without power after an electrical substation was struck by shells during an attack by Russian-backed forces on the government-held town of Schastye.

Shells from mortars and heavy artillery have continued to fall for almost two hours on the Luganskaya power station, which is located next to the settlement.

According to previous reports, one transformer substation is burning. As a result of the fire, electricity has gone down in Schastye, Novoaidar and Severodonetsk.  

Translation by The Interpreter.
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Foreign Ministry Says Without 'Special Status' For Donbass Confrontation Will Renew

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, as part of the ceasefire agreement which is currently in effect (though there are consistently breaches in the ceasefire), agreed to grant parts of Ukraine occupied by rebels "special status," granting them some kind of autonomy while still maintaining Ukraine's territorial integrity. A law passed yesterday codifies this agreement. The details of the law are foggy. What does autonomy mean if the regions are still part of Ukraine? What areas would be effected? How would those areas be controlled?

The Russian state-controlled media outlet ITAR-TASS describes the law as follows:

Under the legislation, the citizens of the eastern Ukrainian regions will have the right to use the Russian language freely. The local government bodies are ordered to encourage the use of the Russian language in the sphere of education, mass media, as well as the activity of the government bodies, courts and during cultural events.

The law also envisages the establishment of people’s police in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The police forces, to be created on a voluntary basis upon the decision of councils in cities and villages, are aimed at ensuring public order...

The Verkhovna Rada has also passed a law against persecution participants in the armed conflict in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The law was supported by 287 lawmakers out of total of 450 in Ukraine’s Verkovna Rada.

However, speaking earlier about the bill on the amnesty for participants of hostilities in Ukraine’s embattled eastern regions, Poroshenko said it would not be in force for certain types of crimes.

Those who committed crimes under Criminal Code articles stipulating premeditated murder, terrorism, attempts to assassinate a state official, a law enforcement officer, a judge, rape, looting, vandalism and some other articles designed to ensure state integrity, would not be subjected to amnesty, Poroshenko said.

But despite this explanation, many experts and journalists remain confused on the subject:

The "special status" law is also unpopular. Many separatist leaders have said that they will not accept it because it is not true independence, and many Ukrainians who voted for Poroshenko believe granting autonomy to parts of the east is equivalent of giving Russia control of some territories, breaking Poroshenko's campaign pledge to fight for Ukraine's territorial integrity. Yesterday there were protests outside the Rada, and many of the protesters were angry at the special status law. Some of them even turned violent.

So while separatist and Russian attacks continue at this very moment (see previous updates below) Ukraine's military is not advancing, and its Rada has granted special status to Donbass. All of this could create a real political liability for Poroshenko, but Russia is making it clear that turning back on the law will bring more violence to eastern Ukraine:

ITAR-TASS reports that the Russian Foreign Ministry has released a statement on their interpretation of the law -- and on what will happen if Ukraine deviates from that interpretation:

“We hope that all provisions of the law will be implemented in a responsible way,” the ministry said.

“It is evident that attempts by certain political groups in Ukraine to cancel it or change its essence will again throw the situation back to confrontation in the southeast and frustrate the efforts of the international community and reasonable politicians in the country to normalize the situation,” it said.

The ministry said “Russia considers the document as a step in the right direction, which is in line with the spirit of agreements mentioned in the Geneva statement of Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union of April 17, as well as the Berlin declaration of July 2,” the ministry said.

“We note that the mentioned law determines the temporary procedure of organizing a local self-government and its bodies’ activities in certain districts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” it said.

“It is called upon to create required conditions for restoration of normal life in the region, to ensure that the citizens’ constitutional rights and freedoms are respected,” the ministry said.

“In particular, a positive assessment can be given to the law provisions that will guarantee the right of language self-determination for each resident of certain areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, development in certain regional districts of cross-border cooperation designed to deepen good-neighborly relations with the Russian Federation’s administrative and territorial units,” it said.

The Russian foreign policy department said “all this creates a basis for the launch of substantial constitutional process in Ukraine, including the start of dialogue aimed at contributing to national reconciliation and accord in that country”.

Let's read between the lines. Among other things, Russia believes that the agreement allows for the establishment of local, temporary, and therefore legitimate governments in affected regions. Those governments will have the obligation to guarantee the restoration of normality as they see fit, and those governments will be expected to work closely with Russia to make sure that this happens.

Does this mean that the self-appointed separatist leadership which has been waging war in eastern Ukraine has been codified into law, and that leadership has the ability to establish a police force to continue its mission, and whatever assistance -- perhaps even military assistance -- Russia provides to that leadership is also codified into law?

And what happens if the citizens of Ukraine don't support this law? Does that mean that Russia has also codified into law a legitimate excuse to invade in the elected Ukrainian government cancels the law?