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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 243

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.
Videos Show Firing of Smoke Grenades Likely Came from Russian-Backed Militants' Positions

A number of shelling incidents of civilians areas in Donetsk have come from the direction of the south, and not from the north, near the Donetsk Airport and suburbs where Ukrainian forces are position. We have been studying the possibilities for where these locations might be.

There are numerous firing positions and the fighters move the artillery around, but we can nevertheless show the direction of the firing and the likely location where the guns were placed, based on the separatists' own videos.

The blogger @djp3tros from Ukraine@War has investigated three possible locations for The Interpreter, based on a short video uploaded by a supporter of the Russian-backed fighters to YouTube on October 15, labelled 'Firing from a Trophy Howitzer 152mm 2A65 Msta B, after repair, first shots."

The gun is firing very high up into the air in an area that has a number of distinguishable features.

The area has man-made earthen walls, a slope upwards and some trees.

Because of the high angle, this could very likely be the gun used to fire smoke grenades visible in this video uploaded to YouTube October 13, titled "Novorossiya First Operation Donetsk 13.10.2014 Strange Fog and Strange Sounds."

As can be seen from the distinctive towers in the skyline and the grounds, the video shows the Oktyabrskaya Coal Mine here on Google Maps. A photo from Google Street View shows the mine's towers.

A screenshot shows the location of the towers of the mine and the camera view lines marked in blue.


This video shows incoming smoke grenades starting at about 2:20:


 The direction of the smoke trails can be seen as follows:


"Smoke" artillery typically burns while falling, unlike rockets, which burn shortly after launching. Mortar or artillery shells don't burn in this fashion, either; they are launched with an explosion.

Some people on social media believed this video showed "white phosphorus," but that isn't the case either, as these grenades don't set everything on fire, as phosphorus would. There is only smoke, and no fire in the video, and no explosions on impact; the explosive sounds are heard from the launching of the grenades.

The smoke grenades' direction can be seen on the map as follows:


A grenade coming in like this has to be shot from a gun pointed up high as in the first video...


...not low, as in this gun from another video:


Three candidates for this position are at a range of 7 kilometers, 11 kilometers and 13 kilometers, respectively, from the Oktyabrskaya Coal Mine and are marked on the map:


Since the gun is firing high, it does not appear to be operating at maximum range, and thus the first field which can be found here on Google Maps is the most likely.

This field shows man-made earthen and rock walls and the elevation and trees to match.


A photo on Panoramio which has been geotagged to this same field shows the same walls.


The photo isn't visible on the Panoramio map, but was included on Google Earth along with another by the same photographer, dc_Scan.


The second candidate field (here on Google Maps) is likely not the scene in the first gun video because it is too flat, even though it has walls.


A panoramic photo taken of the area from atop a slag heap on Panoramio (geotagged here) shows the terrain does not go uphill towards the north.


Here's the same view with the camera position atop the slag heap and the second field shown on Google Maps:


The third field (located here on Google Maps), near a cemetery, also appears too flat and does not have the walls.


So, the first field seems the most likely position from which the militants fired.

Pro-Russian separatist supporter sites on social media portrayed the smoke grenades as coming from the direction of the airport, where Ukrainian forces have been shooting.

But as we have shown, it is more likely they were fired from the south:


The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Law on 'Certain Districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions' Goes into Effect, with Definition Issues Remaining
The "Law on the Special Order of Local Self-Government in Certain Districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions," sometimes referred to as the "Law on Special Status for the Donbass" has gone into effect for a period of 3 years, regional media reported October 17.

The text of the law has now been published in Ukrainian on the site of the Ukrainian parliament's newspapers Golos.

Under the law, passed September 16, local authorities in a number of regions of Donbass, to be determined by Ukrainian security agencies, will have special powers of self-governance. The law provides for the freedom of any language to be used and cross-border cooperation with Russia is encouraged. Fighters in the conflict will be amnestied, reported RIA Novosti.

What this means in practical terms is that "certain regions" must still be defined, and fighting will likely continue to determine the line of demarcation of these regions, from the Donetsk Airport to areas such as Debaltsevo and Pervomaisk.

Elections are planned for December 7, although the leadership of the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic" says they will not take part in elections organized by Ukrainian authorities and are going to hold their own ballot on November 2.

A statement on the Ukrainian presidential site said regarding the new law:

Document № 1680-VII defines temporary order of local government in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The main purpose is to create conditions for prompt normalization of the situation, restoration of legal order, constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens, return of internally displaced persons, restoration of life-sustaining activity in inhabited localities and development of these territories. Also, rights and legitimate interests of legal entities are being restored.

Ukrainian media usually add "except for severe offenses" regarding the amnesty, but the nature of that severity has to be determined, as does the concept of "people's militias" as the Russian-backed militants have used the term "militia" to describe their own forces.

Under the Law, the state guarantees prevention of criminal prosecution, criminal and administrative liability and punishment of persons-participants of the events in these districts. To protect public order, local government will create people’s militia units.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Shelling Resumes at the Donetsk Airport

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed militants resumed this morning at the Donetsk airport, RIA Novosti, and other regional media reported.

The situation at the airport remains tense, Unian reported at 9:00 am local time.

The militants report that the Ukrainian defense forces are bringing in reinforcements to positions in Avdeyeva, Peski, Pervomayskoye and Tonenkoye. The Donbass-1 batallion, Right Sector units and also the 25th Air Mobile Brigade are in Peski and Aidar and Azov are in Avdeyevka, suburbs to the north of Donetsk, said RIA Novosti, citing a rebel source. The Russian separatists are described as "militia":

According to the source, the [Ukrainian] forces have not ceased attempts to break through to the airport area, the territory of which is totally controlled by the militia. Only in the last two days, the Ukrainian forces attempted two such attempts involving infantry, armored vehicles and artillery. They managed to take control the so-called old dispatcher's tower at the airport upon which they've set up two mortar launchers. Militia report that about 70 forces, and a BTR, BMP, tank and two mortal launches have been liquidated. Another BTR was destroyed in the area of the new terminal.

Meanwhile Ukrainska Pravda reports:

On the evening of October 17, uncontrolled terrorist armed formations shelled the positions of the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] in the populated areas of Olkhova, Peski, Starognatovka from mortar launchers, from firearms in Shumy and Debaltsevo and from Grad MLRS BM-21s in Tonenkoye, Krasnogorovka and Novomikhailovka.

The Russian-supplied separatists also continue to receive reinforcements and armor, according to Ukrainian government reports, even as Russian troops have been withdrawn from the border area.

The Donetsk city council reports artillery fire in the Kiev and Kuybyshev districts, with shells completely leveling one private home and destroying another on 50th Anniversary of Soviet Ukraine Street. Homes were damaged on Michurina Street, a construction site on Kurchatova and a garage on Domostroitelnaya.