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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 Live Day 288

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
New 'Information Ministry' Another In a Series of Stumbles For New Government In Kiev

Yesterday there was a confusing story about new regulations concerning journalists visiting eastern Ukraine. After a series of announcements from different officials, each speaking to different sets of journalists, reports began to surface that the Ukrainian government was both easing and increasing restrictions on journalists. Yesterday, Kyiv Post led with this story about new proposed restrictions on field journalists:

The military claimed the new measure was imposed after the intelligence reported about “hunt” opened by separatists for Ukrainian journalists.

Dmytrashkivsky told the Kyiv Post on phone on Dec. 2 that the army just wanted to make the work of journalists, who report from Ukrainian side of frontline, safer. But as the journalists didn’t like the new measure he proposed his commanders to lift it.

“We just wanted to protect you, but it’s up to you if you don’t care about your safety,” Dmytrashkivsky said.

The statement said the new measure was taken in order to protect journalists and that intelligence indicated Russian-backed separatists were “hunting” Ukrainian journalists. The new restrictions, however, also apply to foreign journalists.

Today Kyiv Post notes that the restrictions have been lifted.

But now there is a new controversy, the creation of a new "Ministry of Information" which some are calling the "Ministry of Truth," and journalists are not happy.   

Reporters Without Borders released this statement:

An information ministry has been included in the proposed new government. Its creation, against the backdrop of an information war with Russia, has surprised journalists and media freedom organizations, which were not consulted.

“Putting the government in charge of ‘information policy’ would be major retrograde step that would open the way to grave excesses,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“In a democratic society, the media should not be regulated by the government. The creation of an information ministry is the worst of all possible responses to the serious challenges that the government is facing.”

Media independence and media freedom are the best weapons against propaganda. Enlisting journalists in a government-managed information war would just undermine the public’s confidence in the national media. Reporters Without Borders urges Ukraine’s parliamentarians to oppose this proposal.

And Hromadske TV, a Ukrainian channel dedicated to telling the truth and countering Russian disinformation, is also not pleased: 

Nikolai Holmov writes:

A new “Ministry of Information Policy” seems destined to be born – the reason/excuse for which, is to apparently to confront Kremlin propaganda – be it disinformation, misinformation, agitprop etc.  What it infers, however, is forthcoming governmental manipulation, management and control of thus far freely accessed information.

Even war with the Kremlin is no excuse for what is a proposed ministry that will undoubtedly be misused when under the control of somebody loyal to one or another oligarch/politician.  The same oligarchs/politicians that own most Ukrainian media between them.   (Smart money would have Yuri Stets, godparent to one of President Poroshenko’s children, as front-runner to lead this potential abomination of an entity.)

Perhaps even worse, the slippery slope from a “Ministry of Information Policy” to a far more Orwellian “Ministry of Truth” is simply something all too tempting for those who remain at the pinnacle of Ukrainian political and business life – and containing the new Ministry of Information Policy to the issue of the Kremlin’s war may become a loose concept.

Questions of loyalty to whom, of eventual mission creep, and necessity for such a ministry at all, need be asked.  The red flags of democracy are surely raised by the prospect of a Ministry of Information Policy that can easily morph into a Ministry of Truth”.  It is nothing short of a disaster for the nation should this monstrosity be given life by the State.

We've seen the Ukrainian government struggle with issues like this before. The reality is that Western democracy is a revolutionary concept in Ukraine, the Ukrainian government is under constant siege not only by Russian Grad rockets and armor but also by Russian disinformation campaigns, and the Ukrainian government has a tendency to be reactionary as a result.

In the streets, however, many who supported the Euromaidan revolution are decrying these latest actions. Yesterday's changes in press rules were quickly dropped. It's not clear what will happen to this new idea.

In the meantime, a quick Google search shows that Russian state-operated propaganda channels are all reporting about Ukraine's newest ministry. 

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Report Analyzes Evidence Of Cross-Border Shelling Visible On Google Maps

Sean Case, a blogger writing from Denmark, has produced a detailed (though in his words, still "interim") report on evidence of cross-border shelling visible on Google Maps satellite images.


Cross-border attacks from Russia into Ukraine have been documented before, but this is the largest analysis of open-source material we have seen so far.

The report, entitled Smoking GRADs: Google map satellite images reveal almost 40 artillery attacks from Russia to Ukraine, is available to read in full here. 

141202-shellings-map.png

Case identifies not only impact sites, but proposes likely launch sites, many of them marked by clear burn marks in the grass or even suspicious vehicles parked nearby.

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141202-vehicles.png

Case has cross-referenced media reports of cross-border shelling with visible evidence on Google Maps. He writes that 56 of 127 attacks reported by the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council and the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service can be correlated with visible signs of shelling on Google's satellite imagery.

Case's methodology for identifying impact marks and the likely trajectory of the shells that created them is discussed in an appendix here.

The full interactive map is available here

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Rada Approves Continued Posts For Klimkin And Poltorak

Ukrainska Pravda reports that the Verkhovna Rada has approved President Poroshenko's nominations for the posts of foreign and defence ministers, Pavlo Klimkin and Stepan Poltorak.

Earlier today, it was reported that Poroshenko had nominated both men to continue their posts in the Cabinet of Ministers.

Klimkin was approved by 351 votes, Poltorak by 347.

Klimkin was appointed foreign minister on June 19 this year, after the resignation of Andriy Deshchystia.

Poltorak, who had been made commander of the Internal Troops by acting President Oleksandr Turchynov after the fall of Yanukovych in February, and was subsequently the commander of the National Guard, was appointed defence minister on October 14, after the resignation of Valeriy Heletey.

However frustration remains with open abuse of the parliamentary voting system, as demonstrated by this photo of one MP apparently casting votes on both his own computer, and that of another, absent MP:


-- Pierre Vaux
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Reporters See No Truce In Northern Donetsk
Gulliver Cragg, a correspondent from France 24, is in Donetsk and he's not hearing any ceasefire:
Neither is  Kristina Jovanovski:
We just posted a report of civilians wounded in Avdeyevka, northeast of the airport, which makes this report interesting:
And if there is supposed to be a truce today, why were the Russian-backed separatists deploying more trucks in Donetsk?
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Two Civilians Wounded By Shelling In Avdeyevka

Novosti Donbassa reports that the Donetsk regional branch of the Interior Ministry has announced that two civilians have been wounded in the Ukrainian-held town of Avdeyevka, just to the north-east of Donetsk Airport.

According to the report, a 65-year-old man and a 59-year-old woman were wounded by shrapnel during a bombardment. Both are now in hospital.

-- Pierre Vaux

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