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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 256

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
Next Week's Preview: New Coalition Government And a Collapsing Ceasefire

The Foreign Media Unit of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council has released this press release summarizing the news of the week and previewing next week. The main theme: as a coalition government is formed in Kiev, elections which the government consider to be illegal will be held on Sunday in areas of the Donbass occupied by Russian-backed militants, and fighting is on the increase.

Expectations for the next week: New coalition and peace plan jeopardized by the terrorists


1) The situation in DPR and LPR held territories is alarming again. The terrorists are systematically violating the ceasefire with an increasing number of attacks and shelling. Another attempt to disrupt the Minsk agreement - the so-called "elections", announced for this Sunday. These elections are considered illegal by Ukraine, condemned by the US, EU states and UN Secretary-General, and even caused a protest rally among the Donbas people who have left the territories (app. 400 000 officially registered DP's already). However, DPR and LPR leaders continued preparations, supported by Russia publicly and, as phone interception demonstrates, directly.


2) Those elections put in jeopardy not only the peace solution and rebuilding of the region, but also the area's civilians - Ukrainian intelligence reports that provocations are being prepared that will take place during the illegal elections: terrorist are painting Ukrainian army insignia on tanks, which, along with the increased number of Russian media coming to Donetsk, is a warning for the authorities. Media and artists from Russia continued to participate in the "hybrid war". Friday Ukrainian State Security Service initiated criminal proceedings against Russian film actor Mikhail Porechenkov. Actor was pictured shooting at Donetsk airport from the terrorists position to Ukraine's units. Porechenkov was also wearing "PRESS" helmet, that caused protest of OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media


3) The key issue for Kyiv politics next week will be the coalition negotiations. The preliminary results of the Parliamentary elections, held this week, demonstrated that pro-European and pro-reform parties led by the President, Prime-Minister and the mayor of the western-Ukrainian city of Lviv received a substantial majority, while the Communist Party and pro-nationalist Svoboda were unable to pass the election threshold. President Poroshenko already called this election as the "completion of the Re-load of power, and for the reforms". But the format of the coalition and its coordinating rules are highly important.

a) The parliamentary majority appoints the prime minister. According to the Constitution, the head of the government is a heavy, potent figure. Conflicts between the prime minister and president have caused huge losses for Ukraine in the past. Still, both President Poroshenko and current Prime Minister Yatsenyuk have declared their understanding of the urgent need to work together, and both called the EU Association agreement as the basis for the coalition and Government program.

b) The new parliament and new coalition will open the way to the comprehensive reforms urged by the majority of Ukrainians and western partners. Dozens of reform projects, draft laws and programs have been developed and announced by the president already, including the reforming of the State Judiciary system, law enforcement reform and transformation from a post-Soviet to a competitive, transparent economy. Still, some developments are still significant - President Poroshenko continued to fulfill lustration legislation, and dismissed 30 local administration heads from different regions.

4) Next week will also be less tensed in the energy part of the conflict with Russia. While Ukraine still expects the decision of the Stockholm Arbitration Court on the gas contract with Russia, Ukraine, Russia and EU reached temporary agreement on the price and conditions of the gas supply to Ukraine, that will allow Ukraine and EU to secure energy supply this winter.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
After Crimea and Donbass, Is Abkhazia Russia's Next Target For Annexation

Russia started this year by annexing Crimea, and then within weeks had already begun to militarily and politically support the separatists in Ukraine, culminating in what could only be called a limited invasion at the end of August.

However, as a new treaty between Abkhazia and Moscow is being hashed out at the moment, there are signs that Russia is once again doubling down its efforts to control the disputed territory of Abkhazia, which most nations recognize as part of Georgia. Some see the new draft treaty as alarming -- effectively codifying Russia's annexation, or near annexation, of the breakaway province. Open Democracy's Sergey Markedonov, a specialist on the Caucasus at the Russian State Humanitarian University, has analyzed the draft document and argues that while alarming it's not a significant deviation from the current relationship between Russia and Abkhazia:

But what is causing such an emotional response among Abkhazians? Here we need to bear in mind that territories with ‘disputed sovereignty’ (or as some specialists refer to it, ‘suspended’ sovereignty’) are naturally very sensitive about the whole subject of sovereignty. Unrecognised or only partially recognised statehood can give rise to questions, scathing comments, and sometimes contemptuous sneers; and for the governments and populations of such states, any question about handing over powers to anyone else is a cause of deep sensitivity and alarm. If Russia, a nuclear power and permanent member of the UN Security Council, puts the preservation of its ‘full sovereignty’ at the centre of its relations with the West (in both its internal politics and on the global stage), then little Abkhazia, recognised by only a handful of other countries, regards any intervention from outside with apprehension, at the very least.

The draft Russo-Abkhazian agreement does, however, contain clauses proposing the handing over of a considerable chunk of sovereignty to Russia, in the shape of ‘a concerted foreign policy,’ and ‘the formation of a common defensive and security zone’ that will include ‘the creation of a ‘joint force for repelling any attack from outside,’ as well as joint operations to protect the Republic of Abkhazia’s borders.

Another clause provides for the creation, within a year of the treaty being signed, of a Coordination Centre to facilitate joint police action against organised crime, and other dangerous criminal activities, and extremism on Abkhazian territory. The treaty would also create a single trade and customs zone across the two countries, although Russia would set up a ‘specialised customs agency’ whose monitoring activities would have to be recognised by the Abkhazian authorities.

In essence, there is nothing new in this document. Russia already has an FSB border checkpoint inside Abkhazia; and agreement has also been reached on a joint army base. The only extra element here is integrated policing.

Still, that analysis makes no mention of Ukraine, or Russia's aggressive actions toward NATO. In light of recent history, one could be excused for thinking that the draft treaty is Moscow's may of finishing a job it started in 2008's invasion of Georgia.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
OSCE Monitors Witness Fighting In Lugansk Oblast

The latest OSCE report highlights two examples of heavy fighting in Lugansk oblast over the last two days. The first incident highlights reports that Ukrainian positions are under attack. The second highlights that Ukraine appears to be firing rockets:

On 30 October the SMM visited Stanitsa Luhanska (17km N of Luhansk), controlled by Ukrainian forces, where local residents and the head of the local administration informed the SMM that the town is subject to constant exchanges of fire between Ukrainian forces and irregular armed groups affiliated to the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”). The head of the local administration said that on 29 October the bus station in the town had been shelled at 11.00hrs and that a woman had been injured. According to the head of the local administration, “LPR” forces, positioned on a hill on the southern riverbank, are shelling the town on a daily basis. According to a local resident, one Ukrainian tank and one armoured personnel carrier (APC) are located in the city, next to the area which had been shelled the previous day.

The SMM visited Popasna (80km E of Luhansk) on 29 October, and while in the town it heard the sound of shelling. After leaving the city, the SMM was able to ascertain that the continued shelling was coming from the direction of Zolote and Popasna, both under control of Ukrainian forces. The shelling appeared to be outgoing, however the SMM was unable to ascertain whether there was also incoming shelling from “LPR”-controlled areas. 

To be clear, the Ukrainian government itself has reported returning fire at positions held by Russian-backed separatists, so it's not clear if that's what the OSCE was witnessing in Popasna.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Poroshenko Proposes Keeping Yatsenyuk As Prime Minister

As we analyzed earlier today, the two parties which have the most seats in the new parliament are the parties of Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko and its Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. RFE/RL reports that Poroshenko is now proposing to keep Yantsenyuk on as Prime Minister:

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is proposing that Arseniy Yatsenyuk stay on as prime minister following the country's parliamentary elections last weekend.

"I have proposed that the Petro Poroshenko Bloc put forward Arseniy Yatsenyuk to the post of prime minister," Poroshenko wrote on Twitter on October 31.

Yatsenyuk's People's Front party narrowly beat out the Petro Poroshenko Bloc in voting by party in the October 26 election, according to a nearly complete count.

But Poroshenko's bloc fared better in first-past-the-post voting and was positioned to take more parliament seats than the People's Front, according to election commission data.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
31st Checkpoint Near Bakhmutka Highway Shelled, Killing 1 Soldier

UNIAN reports, citing a TV news report by TSN, that Ukrainian soldiers at the 31st checkpoint near the Bakhmutka highway in the Lugansk region have come under attack.

The checkpoint has become the foremost point of defence since over 100 Ukrainian troops were evacuated from the 32nd checkpoint, near Smile, after being pinned down and attacked for nearly two weeks.

The 31st checkpoint came under heavy shelling today, seriously wounding at least one soldier and killing another.

This is not the first shelling attack on the checkpoint, according to local residents, who told TSN that such bombardments are happening several times a day at the moment. The locals have taken to sheltering in basements.

The nearby 29th checkpoint was also attacked. One shell reportedly struck a dugout, but it has not yet been possible to ascertain any information on casualties.

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