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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 259

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
Surprise Inspection of 150,000 Russian Troops in Far East Leads to Concerns in Ukraine

A number of photos of Russian armored convoys and troops circulating on social media are causing concern that another Russian military invasion may be in the making. (We covered Russian armor moving into Ukraine in the last two days to Makeyevka and then Donetsk.)


The photos were taken by an Instagram user with the nickname of "avto25". They were automatically geolocated to Vladivostok, to the Vtoraya Rechnaya [Second River] Railway Terminal approximately here on Google Maps.

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That's a long way from Donetsk - about 9,500 kilometers in fact -- but the concern is that troops were being rallied from different locations to eventually make their way to Ukraine (as they did in the takeover of Crimea.)

Avto25 published three photos, one of a flatbed with troops and trucks covered with tarps; a second one by the river terminal with the armor; and a third one at night showing the convoy.

This last photo and his comment were removed.

Ukrainska Pravda covered the story, and was able to screen-capture the third photo. We have verified that there is such an account on Instagram and the other two photos were still there.

On the third, now removed photo, avto25 writes (translation by The Interpreter):

#notowar When they brought the guys the last delivery of water, I saw how seriously they were all camouflaged, with bullet-proof jackets, and dozens of special devices and so on. WTF... #Vladivostok #Primorye #DPR #LPR #VL #VDK



In a discussion on the second photo, one user asks, "Why do you believe that this is in fact going to Donbass? Did they tell you that?"

The original poster didn't answer, but another user replied, "They are already riding around Donetsk...And that doesn't look like stolen vehicles, the KAMAZes have bullet-proof glass."

He's referring to the convoys seen in Minsk the last few days, which we geolocated.

Another user writes:

It's too bad, the whole convoy will burn up there. It's f**ked with those KAMAZes and cannons, it's too bad for the guys who will get killed on both sides... ( ( (. And on the death certificate it will say they died of a heart attack during training...


But is this convoy in fact in training?

A user named @vishnya125 writes in the comments on avto125's picture:

The author of this advertisement has done his business well ))) you idiot, they are already citing you in the Ukrainian media!!! And the guys are just having a good laugh ))). Everyone knows that large-scale exercise took place and troops from the Central District took part in it! Now they are returning! Any resident of Vladivostok could verify this, everyone has acquaintances serving in the army!

Vtoraya-Rechka-Railway-Terminal.jpeg

A search through Russian media today established that sure enough, state-owned NTV had a broadcast today about a sudden, wide-scale exercise involving 150,000 troops from the Central and Western Military Districts.

Even Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu got advance notice of the test of combat readiness only the night before.

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The troops reported to NTV that they were required to travel as much as 1,000 kilometers for the exercise which focused on response to terrorism or an epidemiological disaster.

Excercises-3.jpeg

This is a two-stage exercise, and tomorrow will the air defense and air force will be tested.

Excercises-2.jpeg


Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Field Journalists See Increase In Military Buildup in Donetsk

Journalists Maxim Eristavi and Oliver Carrol spoke to Mashable's Christopher Miller last night on Hromadske. Miller reported seeing an increase in military convoys in Donetsk -- some of them so large that they took several minutes to drive by. Caroll reported that just two weeks ago there was very little military activity, so this is new, but that he is not surprised since separatist leaders have repeatedly threatened to launch new offensives.

The entire conversation, which includes other videos, can be viewed below.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
More Heavy Shelling Reported In Donetsk Right Now
Various reporters confirm heavy shelling at the moment in Donetsk:
This video purports to show tonight's bombardment, though we cannot verify it.
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Poroshenko Prepared to 'Make Necessary Amendments' To Minsk Agreement

Despite reports that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was going to abolish the Minsk agreement and/or the "special status" for the Donbas, the full official English statement is now available, and as the excerpt below shows, Poroshenko has only said that such a move will be discussed at tomorrow's meeting with the NSDC (National Security and Defense Council):

Yesterday's pseudo-elections in part of the Donbas are completely opposite to the voting of October 26. Unfortunately, it is a part still controlled by militants.  This farce at a gunpoint has nothing in common with the expression of will. It cannot be called elections by its definition.

Bandits, terrorists and interventionists can coronate themselves deputies, prime-ministers and ministers. They may even call themselves kings or emperors. Still, no matter what they put on their heads, they will remain occupants, criminals and militants. Ukraine will never recognize the so-called elections of November 2. We cannot respect the choice that exists neither actually nor legally. No country in the world that respects itself and the international law will recognize the so-called elections. This farce has already been condemned by the EU, the United States, dozens of our countries-partners. Spokesman of German Government stated today that abolition of sanctions against Russia was out of discussion.

Pseudo-elections are a brutal violation of Minsk protocol of September 5. Minsk protocol provides for the holding of early local elections in the part of the Donbas solely under the laws of Ukraine. We provided them with the given opportunity. Farce of November 2 jeopardizes the entire peace process the beginning of which has been achieved at the cost of outstanding efforts. It substantially worsens the situation in the Donbas. Performers, organizers and sponsors of pseudo-elections are fully responsible for that.

Ukraine strictly adheres to the letter and spirit of Minsk protocol. Against the backdrop of its brutal violation by the other parties, we have to adjust our plan of actions. I have already discussed the new situation with the Defense Minister. Tomorrow, I will have the NSDC meeting at which we will comprehensively analyze the situation and make necessary amendments to the scenarios of our actions taking into account both optimistic and pessimistic forecasts.

One of the issues to be submitted for consideration by the NSDC is the abolishment of the law on peculiarities of the local government in certain districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In due time, this law performed an extremely important role in stemming foreign invasion, mobilizing world's support of Minsk peace agreements, sincerity of Ukraine's intentions on de-escalation of the situation in the Donbas. We demonstrated residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions as well as the whole world that we are sincere in our desire for the political settlement. Militants refused this opportunity. Holding of pseudo-elections undermined the law and aggravated the situation in the Donbas. We are ready to provide broad powers laid down in the law only to the legally elected local government, not to the bandits who coronate themselves.

However, decentralization remains in our arsenal as the key element of political settlement in the Donbas. We will be willing to approve the new law if all the parties return to the fulfillment of Minsk protocol. In case of the ceasefire, establishment of buffer area and control over the border. And in case of clear actions of militants to signalize the reverse in the issue of the so-called elections of November 2.

The new law will provide for clear boundaries of districts with special order of local government in clear conformity with Minsk agreements. It will also provide for budgetary decentralization that will eliminate the irritating question "who feeds whom". It will let these districts be responsible for their self-funding on the basis of their own resources. Everyone will get what he deserves with his work.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian-Backed Separatists Say They'll Abide By Minsk Agreements In Kiev 'Acts Reasonably'

Once again we are witnessing a rhetorical war of words, a chess game between Kiev and Moscow for positioning for the moral high ground. Here is the current state of play:

   - Ukraine says that the separatist elections are a "farce" and a break with the Minsk agreements which brought about the ceasefire. As a result, as we've just reported, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is considering scrapping the Minsk agreement entirely.

   - Russia says those same elections are a step in the right direction and now offer up a legitimate platform for dialogue between Kiev and the Donbass.

   - Russian-backed leaders are now weighing in, saying that they'll abide by the Minsk accords as long as Kiev asks "reasonable."

Meanwhile, NATO commander General Philip Breedlove is warning of more Russian interference in eastern Ukraine:

Breaking Defense reports:

“You’ve seen a series of truck convoys going in and out of eastern Ukraine, none of those approved by the Ukrainian government,” said Gen. Breedlove , commander of both US  and NATO  forces in Europe, during a Pentagon press briefing this morning. “The Ukraine-Russia border is wide open in these places [and] Russian equipment, resupply, training flows back and forth freely.” About 250 to 300 Russian advisors are currently on Ukrainian territory, he said. That’s a far cry from the 4,000 troops in some reports, a figure Breedlove dismissed, but it’s still a critical source of technical expertise (and probably political direction) for the ragged separatists.

Meanwhile, despite what Breedlove likes to call “a ceasefire in name only” between the separatists and Ukrainian government forces, continuing clashes have turned the frontline between Kiev and rebels into something more and more like a border between two states. “We have seen a general trend towards a hardening of this line of demarcation and much more softening of the actual Ukraine-Russia border,” Breedlove said. Over time, he said, “what has changed is the line of demarcation has become…more defined, and the Ukraine-Russian border behind it has become completely porous.”

To put Breedlove’s assessment in blunter terms: Russia and its proxies are successfully erasing the legal, internationally recognized border and drawing a new de facto frontier further west.

So there is a war of words here over who has broken the Minsk agreement, but both sides are posturing and maneuvering their rhetorical arguments on the board to claims the moral high ground. We've seen this kind of rhetorical dance each time there has been an escalation in Ukraine. Unfortunately, what we've also seen before is that this game of chess, a simulated and rhetorical battle, typically ends in an actual battle in eastern Ukraine.

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