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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 258

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
Voting Ends In Donetsk, Shelling Erupts - Aleksandr Zakharchenko In Lead
the voting in Donetsk is over and the shelling has reportedly restarted.
Exit polls suggest that the current self-appointed Prime Minister of the self-declared 'Donetsk People's Republic,' Aleksandr Zakharchenko, has won the elections there.
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Ukrainian President Rejects Donbass 'Elections' As Violation Of Minsk Accord
Ukraine's President, Petro Poroshenko, could not be any more clear about today's 'elections' in eastern Ukraine:

While his whole statement is currently only available in Ukrainian, RFE/RL has translated the core of it:

 "The farce being conducted under the threat of tanks and guns by the two terrorist organizations in parts of Donbas is a terrible event that has nothing to do with real will.'

"All elections on Ukrainian territory where Ukrainian citizens are voting must take place exclusively under Ukrainian law," he said.

Realistically,  the Minsk accords which brought about the ceasefire at the end of August, are in serious disrepair and are in danger of completely breaking. Fighting is intensifying across eastern Ukraine, as are Russian troop movements both inside Ukrainian territory and on the Russian side of the border, as are are aggressive Russian incursions into NATO air and sea space. The conflict in Ukraine is looking more like it did before the ceasefire and the Russian invasion which preceded it. 

There are several possible consequences of these trends and these elections: will one or both sides decide that the ceasefire has run its course? Will Russia recognize these so-called "elections" and use them as a justification for militarily supporting an independent -- or annexed -- Donbass region?

So far the available evidence suggests that the conflict in eastern Ukraine is far from over and could be escalating, despite the general lack of attention being paid to this issue by the wider Western press and political leaders, some of whom are distracted by their own elections.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
OSCE Not Monitoring 'So-Called Elections,' But RT Says They Are
The OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) is the international organization tasked with, among many other things, overseeing elections in Ukraine. It is a mission in which Russia and many countries in the West participate. This is what the OSCE is saying about today's elections being held by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine:
This could not be more clear. Not only is the OSCE not observing the elections, they are describing them (accurately) as "so-called elections.'" As RFE/RL points out, however, that's not what Paula Slier, journalist for the Russian state-controlled news/propaganda agency RT, is reporting:
Another puzzling statement:
These tweets are made even more confusing by two of Slier's more accurate recent tweets:

So who is observing the so-called "elections"? As we reported yesterday, the Russian-backed separatists have created their own agency to monitor the elections:

Journalists in Donetsk today received invitations to a separatist press conference held in conjunction with a hitherto unheard-of body - the "Association for Security and Co-operation in Europe."

This may sound familiar, because the name and the acronym the DNR ('Donetsk People's Republic') have used (ASCE) are clearly intended to evoke that of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the OSCE.

The ASCE appears to have been invented so as to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the separatist 'elections' due to be held tomorrow in the occupied areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

Read more about this on yesterday's liveblog

See our special coverage of this "ASCE" in a separate analysis by Anton Shekhovtsov: Fake Monitors “Observe” Fake Elections in the Donbass

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
'Intensive' Movement Of Russian Troops And Military Equipment

It's not just the Ukrainian government that is reporting it -- significant amounts of military hardware and fighters have been spotted inside eastern Ukrainian territory controlled by Russian-backed fighters by journalists as well.

AFP is leading with this headline (note, the tweet has been retweeted by the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt):


AFP reports:

"There is intensive deployment of military equipment and personnel of the enemy from the territory of the Russian Federation onto territory temporarily controlled by insurgents," Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told a briefing in Kiev.

In Donetsk, the main rebel-held city in Ukraine's industrial south-east, AFP reporters saw about 20 trucks, some carrying anti-aircraft guns, heading towards the government-held airport, although it was not clear whether these were new forces.

Several Western news outlets reported witnessing heavy movement of troops near Donetsk.

Among them, reporters for the news sites buzzfeed.com and mashable.com tweeted that they had seen a large military column. Buzzfeed's Max Seddon wrote: "31 unmarked Kamazes (military trucks) just drove past towards Donetsk. Anti-aircraft weapons, ammunition boxes, radar systems, a bus of gunmen."

Mashable's reporter Christopher Miller tweeted having seen more than 40 trucks headed toward Donetsk "with anti-aircraft guns, fighters".

More details from the National Security and Defense Council:

As we've been reporting, for weeks the Ukrainian government had been reporting deescalation in fighting and a lower death toll. That trend began to turn around on Monday, the day after parliamentary elections, and with each passing day the reports of violence and fighting are intensifying. 
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
American Attorney Frank Abernathy Observes 'Elections' in Donbass with Well-Connected Religious Group

Among the observers at the unrecognized "elections" today of the self-proclaimed "People's Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk" is an American, attorney Frank G. Abernathy, the grand nephew of a prominent civil rights lawyer Ralph Abernathy, a close colleague of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In a statement reported by Rossiyskaya Gazeta,
Abernathy said (translation by The Interpreter):

"I very much hope that participation of the international observers will enable recognition  of these elections as more open and democratic. After all, the main purpose of our presence is of having it be more transparent and open. We bear responsibility for this," said Abernathy.

Abernathy also noted that in his opinion, the end of any conflict is dialogue, because "it is extremely important that people from the LPR and DPR have their elected official representatives" who would conduct this dialogue. "People have a right to self-determination, which is realized with the help of holding elections," said the American observer. "They must determine themselves who rules them and how they will chose their future."

Meanwhile Abernathy said that the participation of the international observers would hardly affect the position of the USA and a number of European countries regarding the election sin the DPR and LPR. "Participation of international observers can hardly enable recognition of the elections in the DPR and LPR as legitimate, as the USA an European countries are full of themselves."

Abernathy's group US-Ukraine Observe is not an election monitoring group, but a newspaper about Ukrainian-American relations. It was founded by the Spiritual Diplomacy Foundation, a group established by Russian emigre and Kiev native Mikhail Margolis, who emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1977.

Despite having left the USSR many years previously, Margolis was able to get meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990, and was among the first Christian broadcasters on Soviet TV.

His group is devoted to the idea of religious citizens' diplomacy, but has gravitated to some of the regions' tyrants in seeking to have an impact and raise money for its charities.

Margolis has had hundreds of meetings with high officials in the region, including Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenko.

In 2013, Spiritual Diplomacy Foundation board member Mark Bazelev led a group of judges and lawyers, including Frank Abernathy, on a trip to Kiev to meet with counterparts. Abernathy was able to meet with later-deposed president Viktor Yanukovych.

Abernathy's articles in the US Ukrainian Observer are friendly toward Ukraine and mildly critical of Russian imperialism, and he has posted some positive articles about Ukraine by others such as by pro-Kiev analyst Taras Kuzio. But he also posted a piece that followed the line of the Yanukovych regime -- and the Kremlin -- in invoking the threat of "fascism" and antisemitism with groups like Svoboda gaining seats in parliament in the past.

In fact, in the last election, Svoboda was not able to garner the required 5% of vote to enter the parliament. Some individual members may get seats in majoritarian districts, but they will be definitely outnumbered by more liberal parties.

Unlike some of the far-right European party representatives on the "observers" junket to the "People's Republics," the US Ukrainian Observers' group does not appear to be associated with right-wing or hardline groups in the US.

But it is a group that has combined religion and business to provide access to authoritarian rulers in the region. In an interview with the online publication Russian Corporate World, Margolis provided his "formula for success":


If it is not a secret, how do you manage to persuade pragmatic businessmen to take part in your Foundation’s numerous charity initiatives?

This usually takes place at meetings and networking events. For example, when I meet with business representatives in the US, I say to them: “Gentlemen, we will help you to launch your businesses in Russia. I know many governors, the right people in government, but if you get a contract with our help, please, do not forget to donate parts of your profit to our charity projects – such as the orphanages, Afghanistan war invalids, disabled veterans from other military conflicts, pensioners, cancer patients, etc.


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