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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 235

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
Unconfirmed Reports of Russian Armor and Helicopters Near Ukrainian Border

Liveuamap.com reported Russian peace-keeping troops accompanied by Mis24(35) attack helicopters today near the Ukrainian border, but the reports could not be confirmed.

The source is to a tweet from an account @lennutrajektoor that is now suspended, but that tweet in turn was citing the Facebook page of Georgian activist Irakli Komaxidze of Information Napalm.

Komaxidze has posted pictures of what are said to be the Russian helicopters with the insignia painted over.

On his Facebook page, citing articles on Information Napalm here and here, Komaxidze explains that he is comparing photos he has found on the popular Russian social media VKontakte dated October 5, 2014 showing helicopters with blue painting to similar helicopter earlier from Abkhazia.

Despite Komazidze's explanations, the photo from Abkhazia is getting separated from Komaxidze's post and claimed as a current photo of a Russian helicopter although RIA Novosti published the photo earlier and it was covered in world media. Also, the blue trim on the helicopters in the October 5 photos do not appear to be covering up insignia but could be standard painting; the Abkhazia photo shows painted-over insignia.

The issue of the painting is being debated here in Russian on Facebook.

Komaxidze also published photos of Russian soldiers with the helicopters, reportedly posted on the popular Russian social media network VKontakte on October 5.

Millerovo-Helicopter.jpg

No links are provided by Komaxidze or Information Napalm for the photos claimed in VKontakte and we could not find them as they provide only the details "Millerovo Region" and the name "Arman" which have thousands of search results.

Komaxidze states in response to a query that he deliberately leaves out such specific information to avoid having the pages deleted. In the past, such as on the stories of Russian soldiers reported missing or killed in action in Ukraine, we have found that Russian authorities have either removed the pages or the soldiers themselves remove them for fear of repercussions.

A separate post by Press TV News of Ukraine also reports Russian armor on the move with helicopters in a video uploaded today October 10 to YouTube titled "Tank and MBD Movements By Train Near Podpesochnoe Lake Luhansk." The images have not previous appeared in Google search.


There's a Podpesochnoye Lake in Rostov Region of Russia which can be found on Google Maps here and one in Ukraine here but in Krasny Liman, not Lugansk; neither appear to have rail lines near them.

The train is labeled "Russia Army" and "Rail Troops" and has a Russian flag and is hauling numerous T-64 tanks with reactive armor. We note the uniformity of the tarps on the APCs, which indicates these aren't captured ones, these are clearly a set.

Earlier today as we reported, the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council also reported Russian armor crossing into Ukraine.

UPDATE

As we noted, the video of "Podpesochnoye Lake" could not be located, and the lakes by those names in both Russia and Ukraine did not have railroads near them.

It turns out this train is in fact in Amur Region, nowhere near Lugansk or Rostov, on a training ground for Russian troops.

h/t to @GorseFires who made the discovery.


The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Ukraine's Long, Cold, Poor Winter

The short-term economic outlook for Ukraine looks as bleak as a long. The German car manufacturer Skoda has compared Ukraine's economy to the economic collapse of 2008 -- fraught with danger, but on the other side of the crisis there will be great opportunity. Unfortunately for Ukrainians, winter is approaching and some economists are warning that Ukraine's devalued currency, high unemployment, and lack of natural gas supply could make this a long, cold, and poor winter. Euronews reports that there have been protests outside of Kiev's Central Bank:

At a protest outside the Central Bank in Kyiv, with ordinary Ukrainians finding it punishingly difficult to pay for basic goods, they have been demonstrating against monetary policy.

They blame the bank for the exchange rate of the hryvnia currency, plummeting in relation to the dollar and euro in the past few years. It has more than halved.

One protester said: “It can’t go on! Salaries haven’t risen, pensions and wages are frozen and we have to pay for everything at the higher exchange rate. The hryvnia has fallen very low, and the price of everything — goods, food, petrol — is linked to that.”

The Economist reports that besides Venezuela, Ukraine is the world's worst currency, and bond holders are seriously worried that Ukraine will default:

Venezuela’s main rival for the title of riskiest sovereign debtor is Ukraine, rated worst in class by all big credit-rating agencies. An ongoing conflict on the eastern border with Russia is playing havoc with its economy and public finances. Ukraine’s economy is expected to shrink by a stunning 8% this year, and the price of insuring its debt against default has nearly doubled since June...

International aid has done little more than buy Ukraine time. It must pay external creditors $9 billion by the end of next year (including $3 billion to Russia), plus an additional $5 billion in 2016 and $8 billion in 2017. There is also domestic debt coming due and billions of dollars in overdue bills for gas from Russia. Foreign-exchange reserves are drying up fast, having fallen from $37 billion in 2011 to $16 billion now. Last month the IMF admitted Ukraine might need another $19 billion if the fighting did not end. Most analysts believe that a top-up is needed regardless.

Ukraine has little room to manoeuvre. The coming months will bring falling temperatures—not to mention parliamentary elections, an IMF check-up and the possibility that Russia may exercise a clause in its loan agreement allowing it to demand early repayment when debts rise above 60% of GDP. A Russian threat last month to call in Ukraine’s debts early pushed yields on Ukrainian bonds to their highest levels in months.

And then there's natural gas. Kyiv Post reports that not only will it be colder inside Ukraine's homes this winter, but lack of supply will likely mean that industry may have to go without, a problem which could increase the overall economic woes facing the country:

Everyone will have to reduce natural gas consumption this winter, none more so than oligarch Dmytro Firtash’s empire of chemical and gas distribution companies.

The government has devised a savings plan for winter with the assumption that Russia will not turn on the tap anytime soon. According to Andriy Kobolev, the head of state-owned oil and gas holding Naftogaz, the nation must reduce consumption by 20 percent from November 2013 to March 2014 to 26 billion cubic meters. Already, gas for heating will be reduced by 30 percent and for the general public by 10 percent. For the first six months of this year, the state-run energy monopoly said that Ukraine had used 5 billion cubic meters less over the same period in 2013. Ukraine has been without gas from Russia, its main supplier, since June 16.

The sacrifices in industry will be selective. Chemical factories will take the biggest hit. They are under almost total control by Firtash, who is under arrest in Austria and awaiting extradition to the U.S., having been indicted on racketeering charges on April 2. The Cabinet on Sept. 29 ordered that no gas other than the technical minimum be sold to chemical producers until the spring. “If they want gas, they will have to buy it somewhere outside Ukraine,” said Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

The good news is that the Ukrainian Hryvnia does not appear to be in freefall at the moment. The currency has gained .26% today and is trading at 12.95 hryvnia per US dollar, according to Bloomberg. This is better than the currencies all-time low, hit on September 19th when the exchange rate reached 14.525 hryvnia per dollar.

USD-to-UAH-Conversion-Chart-Bloomberg-20

The other good news is that thus far it has been a warmer-than-usual fall, but anyone familiar with Ukraine's typically brutal winters has to anticipate that this pattern will not last.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian Backed Separatist Leader Says Kiev Has Agreed To Demarcation Of Eastern Ukraine
Lots of people are buzzing about these tweets:

The Russian state-operated ITAR TASS has some details of the alleged deal:

Representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) have reached an agreement with Ukraine on a demarcation line, DPR First Deputy Prime Minister Ravil Khalikov told TASS on Friday.

“I can add that the Ukrainian side eventually agreed to the demarcation line drawn on our maps. According to their variant, we were to yield a number of inhabited localities to them. But in the long run, our variant was adopted,” Khalikov said.

The agreement was reached two days ago but only announced now, he added.

RFE/RL points out that there has been no confirmation of this deal from the Ukrainian government in Kiev.


The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Donetsk Region Governor Taruta Dismissed
Sergiy Taruta, head of the Donetsk Region State Administration, has been dismissed, Ukrainiska Pravda reported. He had held the post since March. The news was first reported by a source close to Taruta's administration, then Taruta himself confirmed it, Novosti Donbass reported.

A reason cited for his removal was Taruta's criticism of  President Petro Poroshenko's proposal of the 12-point peace plan. Among other reasons cited was Taruta's greetings to President Vladimir Putin on his birthday October 7, in which he wished the Russian leader "boldness and wisdom."

A likely candidate to replace the Donetsk Region governor is Gen. Oleksandr Kikhtenko, a commander of the Interior Ministry's troops currently serving as advisor who was loyal to former President Viktor Yushchenko. The announcement of the replacement is to be made today in Kramatorsk, sources said.

Taruta is running for a seat in the Verkhovna Rada or parliament from a district in Mariupol.
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
NSDC: More Russian Armor Crossed Into Ukraine, Azov To Be Subordinate of National Guard
Every day there is a briefing by the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, and today there were several surprises.
The first is that Ukraine is reporting that a fresh convoy of Russian armor has crossed into Ukraine.

We're tracking those reports, but they represent an unexpected escalation. Recently Ukraine has said that Russian troops had been withdrawing from Ukraine, and while Ukraine continues to say that Russia is openly fighting on the side of "terrorists" who are breaking the ceasefire, even Ukrainian officials have suggested that there has been a deescalation. As fighting is increasing in Donetsk, it's possible that, if this report is true, the escalating violence and frustration with the ceasefire could be the reasons for Russia's actions.One also has to wonder whether this news is connected to our lead story this morning that the power station in Lugansk is on fire.

Two days ago we analyzed the state of the "frozen conflict" and we noted two things: that the conflict is not really frozen, and that Russia still has not received everything that it ultimately wants in Ukraine.

The second surprise from today's NSDC briefing is about the "Azov" Battalion, a volunteer group of supporters of Right Sector, the Ukrainian ultra-nationalist group with ties to neo-Nazis. While Right Sector's leader only received 0.7% of the vote in the presidential election, and while the Azov Battalion is small and relatively unimportant on the battlefield, they are important for two symbolic reasons. The first is that they represent a group of volunteers for the military, which the military desperately needs, and a very vocal, though small, subset of the anti-Yanukovych revolution. The second reason is that the Azov Battalion in many ways is the ultimate symbol of what Russia fears (or says it fears) -- Ukrainian neo-Nazi militants (the reality is that the Russian neo-Nazi parties are openly supporting and fighting for the Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, so the whole issue is largely propaganda).

Today the NSDC is announcing that the Azov Battalion will no longer be under the auspices of the Interior Ministry, but will be commanded by the National Guard:


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