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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 290

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
Commander of Russian-Backed Rebels Admits Firing Rockets From Civilian Neighborhoods
Regular readers know that we have documented many examples of Russian-backed rebels using civilians as human shields, particularly in Donetsk. This week we documented a series of Grad rocket attacks from launchers which were positioned right across the street from a set of high-rise apartment buildings.


Now, a prominent commander of the Russian-backed rebels admits that rockets have been fired from residential neighborhoods. AP reports:

Vostok Battalion commander Alexander Khodakovsky said fighters using residential neighborhoods as for cover for shelling attacks will now face arrest, but he denied that the practice was commonplace.

"If there are one-off instances, believe me when I say that we will tackle this very strongly," Khodakovsky said.

This is not the first time that Russian-backed rebels have admitted using the people of Donetsk as human shields:

Khodakovsky also made an interesting comment which perhaps explains why there has been no truce -- he said that Ukrainian troops should abandon Donetsk International Airport:

Khodakovsky accused the government of failing to keep its side of the bargain by constantly resupplying the airport troops.

"For all combat operations to end, the garrison there should abandon the positions that they hold," he said.

This was never a demand which Ukraine has agreed to. In fact despite the fact that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has just said that a new ceasefire will start on December 9, more Ukrainian troops arrived at the airport today. To our knowledge this is the first time such a demand has been made. In accordance with the Mink agreements, all heavy artillery was supposed to be pulled back by the Ukrainian military, and all evidence we've seen suggests that they have complied with this, but none of the ceasefire deals made arrangements for the repositioning of other forces.

Ukraine is not likely to accept this demand. This means that even as a new ceasefire, starting December 9, is being announced, it already looks doomed to fail.
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Mounting Concern About Ukraine's New Proposed 'Ministry of Information'

This week Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada (parliament) has sworn in a new set of government ministers, and one of them is catching plenty of criticism. Yuri Stets is slated to be the head of the proposed Ministry of Information Policy in order to combat disinformation coming out of the Kremlin. As we noted on December 2, many journalists immediately took to the streets or expressed their concerns about this development online.

Today Agnieszka Piasecka takes a closer look at this new proposed ministry for Kyiv Post in an article that starts with the following statement: "Ukraine lacks an informational strategy rather than an informational ministry and the Ukrainian authorities seem to continuously confuse one with the other."

The article goes on to point out several particular articles in the proposed legislature that are particularly alarming and could allow the ministry to take direct control of the media. But the article goes beyond that to point out that the Ukrainian government has no idea how to disseminate information:

Of course, there is a lack of a consistent informational policy inside and across the government agencies and there is widespread incompetence. It is typical to take several days to reach a press secretary of a government agency or ministry for a commentary, the contact details of such press officers are more secret than sensitive national security data, and press releases on the key issues of public interest are non-existent, or late and lack specifics. The state needs a unified information policy regarding nation branding, state image, and response to domestic and foreign criticism. Ukraine also needs to fight for the minds of those in the East of Ukraine and counteract the Russia’s attempts to confuse the West about the situation in Ukraine.

Yet, there is a simple solution. If you want to have a good information policy for a governmental agency, hire a good PR company, design a professional website, set up social network accounts, create a hot-line, and make sure your secretary actually answer your emails. The informational policy on the national level can and should be implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Institute of National Remembrance or any other government body. These bodies can fight misrepresentations and propaganda in courts, can prepare press releases their interpretations of the events, and serve the public with the facts that prove the informational enemy false.

Read the entire article here.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Poroshenko Announces Ceasefire Will Start December 9 In Accordance with Minsk Deal

RFE/RL reports that a new ceasefire has been agreed upon which will go into effect on December 9:

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on December 4 that the terms of the new cease-fire were included in an earlier peace deal agreed with the help of European representatives in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, on September 5.

But the Minsk agreement published at the time made no mention of a specific date on which the two sides were due to lay down their arms.

Andrei Purgin, the self-styled parliament speaker of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, confirmed that the cease-fire was part of the Minsk deal.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Pictures Of The Ukrainian Soldiers On The Front Lines Of Combat In Donetsk

Journalist David Patrikarakos is back in Ukraine and is embedded with the Ukrainian military as the fighting intensifies. Patrikarakos traveled all the way to Donetsk Airport, so his behind-the-scenes reporting is providing good insight into what has become the focal point of so much fighting.

He has tweeted many pictures today, but we'll highlight a few.

Patrikarakos has several tweets about one enthusiastic soldier who wanted to pose for several pictures while waving a Ukrainian flag and dancing to celebrate as supplies reach the front lines in Donetsk:
But it's not all fun and games:
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
John Kerry And Sergei Lavrov Face Off At OSCE Conference

As we reported earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry told the OSCE today that hundreds of Russian soldiers have crossed into Ukraine and have been killed. Those comments, and others, were delivered by Kerry right before me met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The New York Times reports:

“Regrettably, Russia continues to supply new weapons and increase support for armed separatists,” Mr. Kerry said in Basel at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has sent teams to Ukraine to monitor a shaky cease-fire. “In doing so, it fails to meet its international and O.S.C.E. obligations and to live up to an agreement that it actually negotiated and signed.”

He added, “The result is damage to its credibility, and its own citizens wind up paying a steep economic and human price, including the price of hundreds of Russian soldiers who fight and die in a country where they had and have no right to be.”

Lavrov made his own comments, echoing Moscow's line that what happened in Kiev was an "anti-constitutional coup d'état." Then he met John Kerry:

Mr. Lavrov declined to respond to Mr. Kerry’s allegation about Russian military casualties when the two diplomats shook hands at the start of the meeting.

“This is not a press conference,” Mr. Lavrov said in response to a question from a reporter. “I heard what you said.”

On the surface, this is perhaps the strongest direct confrontation between Kerry and Lavrov to our memory. While in the US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power has been very firm with her Russian analogue Vitaly Churkin, Kerry has been more diplomatic. This is possibly a sign that the White House is growing weary of Russian broken promises on the issue of Ukraine.


But as anyone who has been watching this conflict knows, it's not clear that the US is preparing to change its course of action. Kerry is still pushing the Minsk agreements as the best solution to this crisis.

Lavrov, for his part, is also insisting that the Minsk accords are the best way forward. Lavrov insisted, however, that Ukraine directly negotiate with the Russian-backed separatist leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk 'People's Republics.' Lavrov also clarified, perhaps, who negotiated this "truce" in Donetsk -- Russian military advisors. The Russian state news agency TASS reports:

Lavrov said that “today all hopes are pinned on the implementation of the Minsk agreements between the authorities in Kiev and the representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk, actively promoted by Russia and the OSCE.”

“Our military experts, invited by President Petro Poroshenko, are providing assistance to the conflicting partiers to complete the coordination of the disengagement line and practical steps for the pullout of heavy weapons, which will make it possible to deploy the observers of an OSCE special monitoring mission between the positions of the two sides,” he said...

“Russia systematically supports the Minsk process and wants it to be continued. Attempts to convert the talks into other formats excluding representatives from Donetsk and Luhansk are unacceptable,” Lavrov said. “Only a direct dialogue between the Ukrainian parties can yield results. It should not be permitted the Minsk Accords have the same plight as the February 21 agreement and the Geneva Statement.

Lavrov believes that an honest and transparent investigation of all crimes, including the tragedies of Maidan, Odessa and Mariupol and the Malaysian Boeing disaster will have special importance for restoring trust and for national reconciliation.

-- James Miller


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