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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ukraine Live Day 275

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.
Heavy Shelling Heard In Donetsk Right Now
At this very moment, live feeds from Donetsk show the sounds of explosions. We're not sure if the shells are incoming our outgoing. Just a few moments ago the lights were cut after a massive flash filled the skies.
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Power At Least Partially Restored In Donetsk After Massive Flash
It seems like the power is back on in Donetsk:
We're still trying to track down what caused the explosion. The camera feed below shows northeast Donetsk, "Artyoma St. and the district of Kievskyi."

A little over an hour ago things looked like this.


Then suddenly some of the lights go off, and there is a flash (we think to the north) which then fills the sky:



The camera freezes. When it comes back, this is the scene:


The lights have still not come all the way back on.

Clearly, the power outage froze the camera, but we did not notice a loud sound. It's also strange that the flash, which traveled from (we believe) north to northeast, did not fill the screen instantaneously. 

We're still not sure what the cause of this flash is.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Huge Explosion (Or Flash) As Power Is Cut In Donetsk
A massive explosion (or flash at least) can be seen in this video, and immediately afterwards all power to Donetsk is cut.
The explosions appears to have taken place about 45 minutes ago but there was heavy fighting in the city before this:
Here's a good series of pictures which show the evolution of the skies in Donetsk. The picture in the top left shows the explosion and the blackout:

Translation: Donetsk now. They've really bombed it. The light has gone out all over Kiev District, then there was a hellish flash.

There is speculation that a power substation has been hit. Other speculation includes a possible explosion at a gas station. We have to caution that at this moment all these reports are unconfirmed, but something big has happened near Donetsk airport.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
NATO Spokesperson Says Peskov's Comments Detached From Reality

The BBC reports that NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu has told reporters at a briefing in Brussels this afternoon that comments today by Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's spokesman, are detached from reality.

Earlier today, Peskov said that Russia wanted a "a 100% guarantee that no-one would think about Ukaine joining NATO," and that the military alliance was "attempt[ing] to break the... balance of power".

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Did Those Who Took First Videos Of MH17 Wreckage Know The Plane Was Hit By Anti-Aircraft Missiles?

This week, a new video was released which shows the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 just moments after the crash. The video provides insight into the horror of the immediate aftermath and the terror of having an aircraft crash in one's back yard, but it also provides an interesting data point. At one point, someone says "a rocket took off...and exploded it" (see Translation of New AP Video of First Moments After MH17 Crash). Following up on some questions from BBC's Kriszta Satori, we have gone back to analyze past videos we have posted of MH17.

One of the key factors to remember about July17th is that long before the world was aware that a civilian airliner was missing it was already clear that a plane had been shot down. It's just that most people assumed that the plane was a Ukrainian military jet, like so many others which had been shot down. Even the separatists themselves thought that they had shot down a Ukrainian air force aircraft.

In this post we made back on July 17 (Could Pro-Russian Separatists Have Shot Down the Malaysian Airliner?) we can see a screenshot of the post made in "Igor Ivanovich Strelkov's Dispatches," a group on the popular Russian social network VKontakte. Strelkov and his close associates had posted to this group a number of times before, as we explained. The post refers to "the militia," which is the name the Russian-backed separatists give themselves, having shot down a military aircraft

The post makes it clear that the separatists believe they have shot down another Ukrainian plane (translation by The Interpreter):

17.07.2014 17:50 (Moscow Time), Report form the Militia

In the district of Torez, we just shot down an AN-26 plane, it is lying somewhere behind the Progress coal mine. We warned them -- don't fly in 'our sky.'

Here is a video confirmation of the latest 'bird fall.' The bird fell behind the slag heap, it did not touch the residential area. Civilians were not hurt.

There is also information about a second downed plane, apparently an SU.

The post was removed when the separatists realized that they had hit the wrong plane, but screenshots of this post were taken and a number of witnesses saw these claims in this and other VK groups supporting the separatists.

This statement was also reported separately by Russian-state outlets and pro-Kremlin private Russian news media -- which means that they also got it from their own reliable sources within the separatists' camp and not just "from social media." It makes clear a number of points:

1. Separatists make and post video confirmation of their downing of planes.

2. They had already downed some Ukrainian planes that week, notably on July 14, which Russian media also reported on, so they expected that they had just down yet another one.

3. In previous incidents, the Ukrainian pilot would often eject and survive the crash. Witnesses in various videos and people on these forums often have the expectation that a pilot will be seen after he ejected.

4. LifeNews, a pro-government TV station close to Russian intelligence agencies, reported on July 17 that "the militia reports that they have downed a Ukrainian military aviation forces above the city of Torez of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic" (see 1:00 here). The footage that LifeNews aired for that broadcast were excerpts from the same two videos described below, credited to Sergei Sidorenko and also Novosti Novorossii, a VK group.

We analyzed the same two videos posted by Strelkov's Dispatches and other bloggers, and one other video, from another post on July 17.  The transcripts follow:

First Video:

[Voices indistinct.]

First Man: I'm surprised. I don't think anyone has ejected yet. They'll eject still.
Second Man: I don't think there's anyone there.
First Man: Where.
Second Man: The chips are still flying.
First Man: But that's a village over there. It fell on a village.
First Man: There's machines over there.
Second Man: A plane fell.
First Man: I see. But it fell on a village.
Second Man: Oh, no, on the woods.

Second Video:

In this video, several men and women are talking to the cameraman, and a man on a motorcycle drives up.

Man on motorcycle: What's going on, hello?
Man on motorcycle: A plane, yes?
Women: It's a plane.
Man on motorcycle: Well, thank God.
Another man: Well, you'll see soon.
Woman: Did you see?
Woman: So that means that likely now the pilot will eject.
Another man: Oh, no.
Another woman: It's more likely without a...
Another Man: Beautiful! So you're filming that on a video?
Cameraman: Yes.
Another Man: But maybe it's not a pilot?
Woman: No, it's a plane.
Another Man: People are all rejoicing.
Woman: Uh-huh.
Another Man: It's still burning, it's burning.
Another Man: So it's from that side.
Woman: So there's no [indistinct]?
Another woman: Nowhere.
Cameraman: There wasn't a boom.
Another man: I heard it. It plunged. It's lying here.
Another man: Well, it crashed.
Another woman: At first it was flying, flying...
Cameraman: There's several parts there, do you see? At least.
Another man: Where did it fall?
Cameraman: It's still burning.
Another woman: It's over there somewhere.

Third Video

This week BBC's Kriszta Satori noticed an interesting piece of dialogue in this video. Taken near some houses, a man is walking in the foreground talking on the phone, and several other people in the scene are talking to the cameraman.

First Man: I was just walking along and over there, they downed a plane...
Woman: You see?
Second Man [on the phone]: So, that's it, that's it, it's passed.
First Man: ...and it fell down. Over there, where Progress is. [Progress is the name of a local coal mine located near Grabovo here --The Interpreter.]
Second Man [on the phone]: Alright, that's it, sweetie.
Cameraman: Yes, that's Progress.
Second Man: Alright, soon we'll see each other and [indistinct].
First man: So, well, we came out here...see, over there
Cameraman: Uh-huh.
First Man: See? The pieces flying over there. The black over there. Something crashed.
Second Man [on the phone]: It's a plane. A plane fell.
First Man: Over there, look! Black smoke.
Third Man: Black
Camera Man: Yes
Second Man: A plane fell.
First Man: Something crashed over there. And there's more, it's falling. Look! See, there's black smoke. It's falling on the slag heap, where Progress is.
Cameraman: The job got started.
Another Man: He will come out.
First man: Look, from the direction of the slag heap, toward Krasny
Second man [on the phone]: Yes, that...but f**k, there's, what, a residential....f**k, c**t.
First Man: Black smoke is going up. What the hell!
Second Man [on the phone]: From the other direction, somewhere.
First Man: We were just walking along and the plane fell.
Another Man: He'll come out.
First Man: Yes, the plane fell.
Camera Man: But it fell hard, it went boom.
Another Man: Where?
Second man: [on the phone] Well, call him.
Woman: What's going on over there, a plane?
Another woman: Yes.
Second man: [on the phone] Well, it's probably that. Because a guy shot at it, and they hit it. They hit it.
Another man: Well, f**k.
Camera man: So they didn't bring [it] in vain, right? [Laughs]
First man: But there's...there's a f**king residential area over there, shit.
Another man: Well, a plane fell. It fell.
Another man: I didn't see it, it broke apart somehow, yes?
Woman: Yes.
Second man: Alright.

This video is perhaps the most interesting. The fact that the man on the phone says "it's probably that. Because a guy shot at it, and they hit it. They hit it," and the  cameraman responds, "so they didn't bring [it] in vain, right? [Laughs]," indicates that these men may not be simple witnesses. Does the statement  "because a guy shot at it" from the man on the phone (who is he talking to?) suggest a certain level of familiarity with what just took place? Does "they didn't bring [it] in vain" refer to the Buk missile which is the weapon which most likely brought down this aircraft? Were at least some of these videos taken by journalists who were working with the Russian-backed militants and so knew that an anti-aircraft missile was used to take down the aircraft?

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick and James Miller