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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 254

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
Human Rights Watch And The Balance Of Reporting On Cluster Munitions In Ukraine

On October 20, Human Rights Watch published a report, "Widespread Use of Cluster Munitions," which concluded that there was strong evidence that the Ukrainian government used cluster munitions. 

We had some questions about this report which we covered in a post on October 22, Assessing The Human Rights Watch Report On Cluster Munitions In Donetsk.

While HRW's report said that both sides were implicated in the use of cluster munitions in civilian areas, the case studies by HRW focused only on their alleged use by Ukrainian armed forces. They said that could not be conclusively tied to Ukrainian forces, and mentioned the possibility that Russian-backed militants could be implicated, but did not produce any findings regarding the militants.

As we noted, the HRW report pays a great deal of attention to claims that the Ukrainian military used cluster munitions, it makes little to no effort to address the regular shelling from the Russian-backed separatists which provides the backdrop for Ukraine's military response in Donetsk and which also kills civilians.

Not surprisingly, the Russian Foreign Ministry has now seized on HRW's report, and urged the international community to take action only against Kiev:

However, Human Rights Watch then appears to have made some effort to address this imbalance. The Deputy Executive Director Carroll Bogert sent this tweet:

Faced with the Kremlin's misuse of its report for its own agenda, Human Rights Watch's researcher Ole Solvang then published a "Memo to Russia on Ukraine Cluster Munitions." An excerpt:

We found evidence of cluster munition use in 12 locations. For some of these attacks, in particular several attacks on Donetsk in early October, we gathered significant evidence that Ukrainian armed forces were responsible.

But there are also serious allegations that pro-Russian rebel forces, and possibly Russia itself, have used cluster munitions in eastern Ukraine. All parties to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine have access to the same weapons, so it is not always possible to draw definitive conclusions with respect to specific attacks. In one case we documented in our report, cluster munitions killed 3 civilians and injured 17 in Starobesheve, a village south of Donetsk. The attack took place during  a major offensive by Russian-backed rebels against Ukrainian armed forces, who eventually  abandoned the area with very significant losses.

Ukrainian authorities immediately accused Russian forces of firing cluster munitions from Russian territory. Our on-the-ground investigation established that, given the incoming direction, these cluster munitions could have been fired by either Ukrainian or Russian forces. While circumstances raised the possibility of Russian or pro-Russian rebel responsibility, we ultimately made no definitive attribution of responsibility for this attack. But this case and others warrant more investigation.

The emphasis has now shifted to greater concern about the rebels' use of cluster munitions, but no further findings have been produced.

One look at our reporting shows that the area in question shifted hands several times. Not only this, but evidence suggests that Russian military units were involved in at least some of the fighting. We reported on August 15 that Ukrainian forces re-took Starobesheovo, but by August 27, we reported how not only Russian-backed forces, but Russian Federation forces themselves had occupied the area. Fighting continued through the 30th.

Therefore we believe further investigation is indeed warranted.

Human Rights Watch received a significant amount of criticism for their initial report. It is interesting, then that this pop-up appears on their newest report:

Dispatches-Memo-to-Russia-on-Ukraine-Clu

The advertisement, which has also been running on Youtube and elsewhere, redirects to a petition to US Secretary of State John Kerry to "urge [Kerry]  to work in conjunction with the European Union to call for the repeal of Russia's repressive legislation and to support Russia's independent activists. The Kremlin's escalating crackdown on civil society must end." The conflict in Ukraine is only mentioned in the petition in so far as it has overshadowed human rights abuses inside Russia.


The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
In Two Days NATO Has Intercepted Nearly As Many Russian Jets As All of 2013
NATO is reporting an alarming amount of Russian jets flying near NATO airspace over the last two days:

NATO's Allied Command Operations has released a press release detailing each of the incidents:

NATO detected and monitored four groups of Russian military aircraft conducting significant military manoeuvers in European airspace over the Baltic Sea, North Sea/Atlantic Ocean, and Black Sea on 28 and 29 October 2014.  These sizable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace.

To drive home how unusual this amount of Russian activity is, the statement ends with a note that there have been over 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft this year -- which means that the last two days may make up one quarter of all incidents. In fact, according to these numbers, the last two days may have seen nearly as many interceptions as all of 2013:

NATO jets were on standby throughout the duration of both Russian flights and Russian aircraft were continually tracked using Allied assets on the ground and in the air.  NATO has conducted over 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft in 2014 to date, which is about three times more than were conducted in 2013.

Scrambles and intercepts are standard procedure when an unknown aircraft approaches NATO airspace.  However, such flights pose a potential risk to civil aviation given that the Russian military often do not file flight plans, or use their on-board transponders. This means civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft nor ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic.

NATO Allies protect their airspace on a 24/7 basis. Allied air defence efforts are focused on stopping unauthorised incursions into NATO airspace and on preventing acts of airborne terrorism.

Estonian President Toomas Ilves is rejecting the word "intercept," however.


The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Svoboda and Right Sector May Hold Only 8 of the 450 Seats In Parliament
No two political parties in Ukraine are more maligned by the Russian government and its online supporters than Svoboda and Right Sector, two of Ukraine's best known Far Right parties. Ukraine's parliament is elected by a 50-50 system. Half the Rada is chosen based on which parties people vote for, and the other half is chosen when individual candidates win elections. However, neither Svoboda nor Right Sector have received the minimum amount of votes to have representatives elected in the first manner, and the two have only had a total of 8 candidates win in individual seats. The result -- the two parties may make up less than 2% of the new Rada.
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
German Air Force Scrambles to Intercept Seven Russian Air Force Planes

According to a report yesterday October 28 in The Aviationist, the Latvian military reported that German Air Force Eurofighter jets on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) at Amari, Estonia, were scrambled to intercept seven Russian Air Force planes flying over the Baltic Sea in international airspace.

The German jets are stationed in Estonia, which joined NATO in 2004, to provide NATO Baltic Air Policing. The Latvians reported:

The German interceptors identified the Russian planes as a large package, made of attack planes and escort, which included 2x MiG-31 Foxhound, 2x Su-34 Fullback, 1x Su-27 Flanker and 2x Su-24 Fencer jets.

Regardless to whether the Russian aircraft were involved in one of the frequent training missions in the Baltics or were commuting to/from the Russian airfield in Kaliningrad oblast, the package on Oct 28 represents one of the largest “formations” intercepted by NATO fighter planes during the last couple of years.

As we reported, in September, Latvia had to scramble two jets to intercept two Su-24s and escort them back into Russian territory.

And in August,  Russian nuclear bombers violated US airspace 16 times in 10 days.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Grad Rockets Fired In Donetsk Right Now
Grad rockets and flares are being reported in Donetsk right now.
"Outgoing" Grad fire likely means that the rockets are coming from Russian-backed militants, but we can't confirm that yet.
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