The Interpreter

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Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russia This Week: Low Turnout in Moscow Municipal Election, Opposition Loses to Ruling Party (September 8-14)

Updated Daily. This week’s issue:

- TV Rain’s Chief Producer Assaulted in Moscow
- In Moscow City Legislature Race, United Russia Leads with Close Vote Between Independent and Nationalist
- Low Turnout in Moscow Municipal Elections, Difficulties for Opposition Candidates
- Gay Tango Instructor Found Murdered in St. Petersburg
- Leading Russian Human Rights Group Declared ‘Foreign Agent’
- ‘There Are Things More Important Than the Stock Market’
- Putin Lights Candles in Church ‘For Those Who Gave Their Lives to Novorossiya’
- Consumer Agency Opens Up 80 More Cases Against McDonald’s Restaurants
- Opposition Gearing Up for Peace March, but Polls Show Apathy about Protest
- Russian Parliamentarian Calls on Gazprom to Halt Deliveries to Europe
- Russian Journalist Describes Detention, Torture of Detainees By Russian-Backed Separatists
- Moscow Court Overturns Decision for Election-Monitoring Group Golos to Register as ‘Foreign Agent’
- Moscow Legislator Calls for Ban on Apple Even as Russian Tech Blogger Previews iPhone 6
- Anti-War Picket in Nizhny Novgorod
- First Russian State TV Show about Paratroopers Killed in Ukraine, Packaged with Lies
- Local Russian Media Report More Paratroopers’ Deaths in Combat in Ukraine

Last week’s issue:
- Presidential Human Rights Council Members Appeal to Investigative Committee on Missing Soldiers
- Russian Defense Ministry Meets with Soldiers’ Mothers, Human Rights Advocates
- Russian Soldier ‘Fighting as Insurgent’ Killed in Ukraine: Kyiv Post
- Persecuted Russian Parliamentarian Ponomarev Decides to Remain Abroad
- Cell Phone Messages of Moscow Municipal Candidate Leaked to State Media
- “There’s No Such Thing as a Former Paratrooper
- Russian Blogger Asks Hard Questions about Death of State Photographer Stenin
- Russian Journalists Ordered Not to Write About Reports of Stenin’s Death
- Reactionaries Propose ‘Anti-Maidan’ Patrols to Counter Russian Opposition Protests
- On 10th Anniversary of Beslan Tragedy, Russian State Media Re-Write History
- Anti-War Protesters Arrested in Moscow for Candlelight Vigil
- Lone Anti-War Pickets in Moscow, Yekaterinburg

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs‏.


Ukraine Liveblog Day 208: Second Russian ‘Humanitarian Convoy’ Crosses Into Ukraine

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.

View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map
For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Below we will be making regular updates so check back often.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Is Colonel Strelkov Making a Comeback or Has He Been Tamed?

On 14 August, the popular and enigmatic Col. Igor Strelkov resigned from his position of “Defense Minister” and “Commander of the Donetsk People’s Republic Militia” after reports that he was wounded. He then disappeared for weeks, and was rumored to be in Sevastopol, in a rest home.

When he surfaced yesterday September 11 for a press conference in Moscow, it was actually after a month of carefully-prepared reports about him appeared in Russian-backed separatist press and social media, some quoting him directly, and contrasting with more critical coverage from Westerners.

His supporters were prostrate with grief at his passing from the leadership of battles in the Donbass, but Western journalists obtained new information about his rein of terror as Ukrainian troops liberated Slavyansk and other towns. After Strelkov’s retreat from Slavyansk, Christopher Miller of Mashable and Kyiv Post discovered the colonel had signed execution warrants reportedly carried out against citizens, although their bodies have not yet been discovered in a mass grave opened that has revealed other crimes of the Russian-backed separatists. But when Aleksandr Boroday, the self-declared “prime minister” of the DPR was interviewed by Russia’s independent Novaya Gazeta, he readily admitted that the DPR carried out executions.

Russian state media was terse about Strelkov, but for his fans, Strelkov was following the path of vilification and then purification of other disgraced but misunderstood or unfairly targeted figures in Russia and was being groomed for a future role.

Most of the speculation about Strelkov’s removal focused on his ostensible challenge to the power of President Vladimir Putin himself as the radical leader of an ultranationalist movement — although these accusations weren’t based on Strelkov’s actual statements, but on rancorous debates about him and other leaders among warring factions of ultranationalists in Moscow.

On 18 August,, a pro-separatist site, ran a story with the headline “Strelkov Forced to Leave Novorossiya, Blackmailed with Refusal of Offer of Military Aid,” dated 18 August. “Novorossiya” is both the idealized utopia of a restored tsarist-era swathe of territory including parts of Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, and the term used just for Lugansk and Donetsk regions — and whatever else Russia and the separatists might manage to grab before the Russo-Ukrainian war is over. The story seemed to confirm what many believed was the reason for Strelkov’s forced departure:

“A source in the militia leadership has shared information about what was the reason for the supposed voluntary resignation of Strelkov from the post of DPR Defense Minister and his departure from Donetsk. According to our source, Strelkov was forced to do this through blackmailing; if he refused, the militia wouldn’t receive the promised help.

Earlier, unofficial agreements were reached to received large-scale military support for the militia. The chief condition for providing such support (more than 1,000 personnel and more than 100 armored vehicles) was the resignation and departure of Strelkov from Donetsk. If the event that Strelkov refused to leave, the Donetsk People’s Republic and Novorossiya in general would have been under a threat of complete destruction by the Ukrainian punishers.”

This source was coy about saying where that “help” would come from, but it was obviously Russia — reports of more than a thousand Russian Federation personnel and more than 120 vehicles then appeared, with geolocated videos and journalist accounts to back them up.

Intriguingly, this insinuation — that Strelkov’s supposed threat to Putin was literally costing the rebels their Russian military aid — dovetailed with the very charges made at a dramatic press conference held in Donetsk in July by Sergei Kurginyan leader of the leftist ultranationalist “Essence of Time” ultranationalist movement, who denounced Strelkov for fleeing Slavyansk and supposedly leaving weapons behind, and said that he was “disrupting his supply” of aid from Russia because he refused to put to an end rumors that he would challenge Putin for political leadership. At the time, Pavel Gubarev, the “people’s governor” of the DPR, wrangled with Kurginyan and ultimately walked out of the press conference in protest — he said Strelkov was a warrior, not a politician and couldn’t be expected to make these kinds of scripted statements.

In the month Strelkov remained out of view, supportive journalists tried to pry more out of DPR leaders like Gubarev, but he didn’t seem to be personally in touch with Strelkov; some bloggers began to justify his removal by the need to put in “indigenous” forces — Aleksandr Zakharchenko, while Russian-speaking was born in Donetsk, Ukraine and spent his life in the Donbass; other bloggers surmised that while good at leading the charge for some battalions, Strelkov was incapable of long-term management of large army divisions, which would be the next phase for “Novorossiya.”

Then — as if mindful that too much discreditation of Strelkov could harm the whole ‘Novorossiya’ cause itself, so identified with him, on 21 August an official post was made through the VKontakte group “Dispatches from the Novorossiya Militia” — previously named “Strelkov’s Dispatches” whose name was changed after Strelkov himself informed the group that he would no longer be issuing statements through them.

21.08.14 Report from Aleksandr Zakharchenko, DPR Prime Minister

“Former Defense Minister of the Republic Igor Strelkov will take up the creation of a common army of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. He fulfilled his assignment in the DPR and has moved to another job. There is Novorossiya, which needs military cadres, coordination of the staffs between the DPR and LPR. We are not reporting where the ex-DPR minister is now located. The man has fought for three months and has the right to a quiet vacation.”

This job description was both vague and daunting — but Strelkov never took it up.

On 30 August, a conference was organized in Yalta by the Russian-backed separatists, Russian ultranationalists including top Putin aide Sergei Glazyev and representatives of far-right European parties.

Strelkov was at the top of the bill, but he did not appear; a political analyst and blogger Anatoly El Murid explained that he was not even informed and his name was only exploited by “opportunists.” El-Murid posted a picture of himself with Strelkov — but it wasn’t clear where or when it was taken.

During this time, a video dated 28 August and uploaded 3 September began to be circulated on VKontakte and various high-traffic bloggers:

It was said to be taken by “a tourist” and showed the famous Church of the Transfiguration in Valaam in the Karelia region of Russia near the Finnish border — Putin’s favorite monastery visited earlier this year to consult with his spiritual mentor. The video showed a procession of a priest and the faithful with an icon of the Mother of God, likely celebrating the Orthodox Feast of the Dormition (14-28 August). As bloggers noted, the video contained all the key Novorossiya players.

As the camera pans around, first the bearded Eurasianist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin is glimpsed in a jacket, then Strelkov in camouflage fatigues, and finally Konstantin Malofeyev, a wealthy Orthodox businessman with a shorter beard and jacket who reportedly bankrolled the “Novorossiya” adventure. Others in their group could not be identified.

Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin) and Aleksandr Dugin in Varlaam at the Church of the Transfiguration on 28 August 2014.
Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin) and Aleksandr Dugin in Varlaam at the Church of the Transfiguration on 28 August 2014.

Possibly Konstantin Malofeyev with Igor Strelkov and Aleksandr Dugin in Valaam
Possibly Konstantin Malofeyev with Igor Strelkov and Aleksandr Dugin in Valaam

On 4 September, the video was published on with stills from the same scene — a close-up of Strelkov and the group which in fact are not in the video.

Igor Strelkov in Valaam 28 August 2014.
Igor Strelkov in Valaam 28 August 2014.

Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin) and Aleksandr Dugin in Varlaam at the Church of the Transfiguration on 28 August 2014.
Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin) and Aleksandr Dugin in Varlaam at the Church of the Transfiguration on 28 August 2014.

Another site had still more photos not in the video.

Col. Igor Strelkov with Russian Orthodox priest at Valaam 28 August 2014.
Col. Igor Strelkov with Russian Orthodox priest at Valaam 28 August 2014.

Clearly Dugin and Strelkov are in the pictures, but it’s less certain the bearded man with them is Malofeyev, although some are confident it’s him:

Another figure identified is Sergei Rudov, head of the Foundation of Friends of the Monastery of Vatopedia and a member of the presidential public chamber.

On 7 September, a post from Strelkov appeared on the hidden forum of historical re-enactment buffs where he has long been known to participate, and was picked up by the Russian media.

He said he knew nothing about the Yalta conference where he was listed to speak and accused organizers of exploiting his name for PR; he also denied knowing anything about a rally on 13 September where he is supposed to appear. He confirmed that the blogger El-Murid, who had published a picture of him, was indeed in contact with him, and accused those attaking El-Murid of being related to “birds from Surkov’s nest,” a reference to Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov, who is believed be in a “party of peace” opposing the Novorossiya “party of war” fighters and influencing Putin in a direction unfavorable to the DPR fighters.

Strelkov then added that he wouldn’t answer the lists of questions to him that had appeared online, including why he left Slavyansk, but said he would “later” — and made an obvious reference to Vladimir Antyufeyev, a long time Kremlin intelligence operative in Transdniestria and other regions who was brought to Donetsk in July and given the title “acting commander-in-chief” until Aleksandr Zakharchenko was installed.

“I do not remove responsibility from myself for the situation in Donetsk. I am well information about what is going on there. But now I cannot influence it in any way, unfortunately. For now.

I will continue inevitably to fight for the Fatherland in one form or another. Let my many “well-wishers” (in Russia and in Novorossiya and also in the Ruins [lit. Ruina, a pejorative term for Ukraine used by the DPR based on a pun--The Interpreter] have no illusions in this regard. While I’m alive, they’ll have to not sleep soundly. Moreover, I ‘send a message’ to certain people in Donetsk, as it is customary to say, ‘I’m mad and I have a good memory.’ This particularly concerns a certain middle-aged lover of fine cigars and whiskey who has portrayed himself successfully for 20 years as an “officer and a patriot.” He will understand. Honor and respect — that is now “not about him.” And I also advise all kinds of local mongrels on his lash not to forget that I am still alive and quite capable.”

Finally, Strelkov makes a reference to one of the top controversial opposition journalists, and cites a famous line from Pyotr Stolypin, Tsar Nicholas II’s reformist Prime Minister, who said to revolutionaries in a Duma speech, “You, gentlemen, need great upheavals; we need a great Russia”:

“Yuliya Latynina and Co. should not expect me in their company. I do not and will not have anything in common with them. ‘They need great upheavals…’”

Strelkov concluded that another volume of his stories would be published in late September. (In July, a pornographic work of slash fanfic appeared on Amazon evidently as part of the campaign to discredit him.

Then, just as it seemed as if Strelkov was consigned to the world of Russian tabloids, conspiracy forums and erudite Twitter ridicule, then Igor Druz, his advisor, came forward with a story published at politnavigator titled “Strelkov Returns,” of meeting Strelkov “in one of the regions of Russia”:

“Brief impressions. I recognized our commander. He always cared less about luxury. He is now living in a small room where strict minimalism reins, if not to say ascetism. There is a table, bed, books, computer. That’s it. Groceries — pirozhki [meat pies], sandwiches, tea, etc. — are brought to him from a local store by a certain old friend.”

Druz said the colonel was continuing to work on “projects to help Novorossiya” but that he had been forced to leave “due to force majeure.” He then added a quote that was made the headline of many articles and posts about this meeting:

“Igor Ivanovich said firmly that he will oppose all the unlawful attempts by pro-Western forces to commit a ‘color’ revolution in Russia” and that he would organize a press conference, and that all the ranks of right and left forces have to be mobilized ‘for a common battle with fascism.’”

Druz concluded with an admission of defeat and a caution about attempts by the liberal opposition to co-opt him:

“We all agreed on one thing: no one will manage to ‘dump’ the Novorossiya project; neither the Ukro-fascists or the traitors from Moscow or their Western curators. And thank God. but the main task was not fulfilled, alas: breaking the back of the Kiev junta. Therefor the attempts to rock our political ‘boat’ from the ‘white-rebellion’ rebels will increase. Our task is to oppose this.”

True to his word, Strelkov appeared to give a press conference on 11 September in Moscow.

He quickly read out a prepared statement:

Intriguingly, Strelkov first began talking about the reason why he resigned — referencing the divided DNR leadership, not the split between the DPR and “Lugansk People’s Republic” and the issue of aid:

“The decision taken was justified, enabling on the eve of the offensive the unification of the leadership of the armed forces of the DNR in one hands and avoid many conflicts within the republic and defuse the situation and also to ensure a reliable supply of our units and formations with all that is necessary.”

While Strekov does not specify the aid comes from Russia, strikingly, this appears to confirm the story in based on the unnamed source within the DPR that also implied the Russians refused to give aid to the rebels if Strelkov didn’t leave. At the time, this story seemed like a mere rumor because in fact, even after Strelkov retreated from Slavyansk and headed to Donetsk, there was a big infusion of Russian assistance.

On July 30, two weeks before Strelkov’s resignation, there was the battle for Shakhtyorsk supported by Russian armor on July 30, with artillery back-up from Russia. That seemed to suggest that the intrigues and denunciations were irrelevant.

But possibly that aid was already in the pipeline, as Kurginyan himself implied at his press conference, and maybe the conditionality regarding Strelkov was then introduced as that convoy arrived; whatever the back story is, Strelkov was then out by mid-August.

As we know from an intercepted conversation released by the Ukrainian Security Service, on 25 July between Aleksandr Boroday (himself later forced to resign) and Aleksandr Chesnakov, a former United Russia party operative still influential in politics, there was unhappiness with the “f**king mad colonel” as Boroday called him. They discussed the problem of disunity among the various figures in the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Lugansk People’s Republic” and the problem of different warlords jockeying for position, a situation Boroday dubbed semikommandirshina — “seven commander rule” — a term improvised from the old Russian term semiboyarshina, “seven boyar rule.”

At the end of this conversation. Chesnakov had another urgent assignment for Boroday, as we wrote at the time:

Chesnakov has another order for Boroday — and invokes the name of Archimandrite Tikhon — Putin’s personal father confessor — with whom he is traveling. He urges him to get Strelkov to express his loyalty to Putin and affirm him as the “commander-in-chief” and as a great leader — the seven boyars’ issue — although he can’t directly fulfill his orders because he is in “another country.” He stresses the importance of Strelkov performing this gesture – oddly, just as Kurginyan did in his press conference that caused the Pavel Gubarev and other separatists to walk out. Boroday yesses him as if he is merely there to fulfill Moscow’s command.

Interestingly, Strelkov never performed this request in Donetsk — perhaps another factor in his ouster — yet at the 11 September press conference he more or less acknowledged Putin should not be opposed because it was war-time, calling out the “fifth columnists” around him.

Summarizing the sense created by Strelkov’s remarks, in a piece for Kyiv Post, Christopher Miller said he “threw his support behind Russian President Vladimir Putin, to whom until now he has not professed his loyalty.” And in a piece headlined “The President Must Be Supported” went further, seeming to quote Strelkov directly as saying, “The president must be supported.”

But in fact, as the videotape indicates, Strelkov didn’t actually say those words.

He began by calling his movement “the popular liberation movement of the Russian people of Novorossiya,” and saw it as necessitated because the USSR “was destroyed with foreign assistance in 1991″ and the Russian people were “humiliated” through the 1990s.

While he conceded that in April, before the Russian-backed separatists began fighting, “Ukraine had no support of the public or viable army,” he believed now they did. He claimed the Ukrainian government was involved in “neurolinguistic progamming and zombification of the Ukrainian people,” that they were engaged in the “genocide of the Russian people” and that even “veiled threats from Islamist fighters under the control of the US” were used against “Novorossiya” — all bizarre statements without any grounds, but indicative of his state of mind.

Strelkov sees Putin as surrounded by “fifth columnists” or figures undermining Putin and Russia by intrigues with the West for selfish advantage — so for that reason, gets behind Putin.

“They are planning to fight Russia long, and seriously. The West and the fifth column virtually do not conceal their plans to overthrow President Putin and the ensuing complete break-up of Russia, and its agents of influence make every effort to convince the leadership of the country that reconciliation is not only possible but the only necessary.”

The fact that the enemies of Russia are not suited by anything but capitulation is hidden from the public, and I submit, even from the president.”

Due to these intriguers, “all the relatively favorable options for the Russian spring have not been realized” and now Russia faces a growing military threat. Strelkov then calls out the opposition — but he seems to mean not just the “non-system” opposition outside of parliament, but people who opposed Putin from within his administration or his close cronies in business — he refers to their considerable wealth, just as Boroday did:

“The fifth column’s merits in this regard are incomparable. Why did the liberals make such an implacable and possibly even suicidal attack against the president and his course? Why were they so bold as to challenge him and his policy?

There are two fundamental factors here. First, the fifth column also has only one way out and that’s rebellion, clandestine for now, but that’s only for the time being. The revolution from above begun by President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin leaves them no chance for political survival, and simply departing from the country, earning their estate by back-breaking toil is not allowed them by their foreign masters.

And the second factor is even more obvious. Possessing serious positions of power and significant financial resources, the traitors seriously plan to seize power themselves, and flush with success, go to the next step, and divvy up the remnants of a one-great country and utilize the people settled on it.”

But before they can do that, they have to accomplish several tasks, one of which is to deprive Putin of his mass support, which they can do by dumping the Novorossiya failures on him. Strelkin believes the fifth column would see to it that the war in southeastern Ukraine would remain a bleeding wound that would never reach decisive victory using the “two steps forward, one step backwards” principle. Novorossiya will be blamed “for a million refugees fleeing.” Western sanctions will “take their toll.”

The premise of President Barack Obama and other Western leaders is that if they impose economic sanctions on the oligarchs close to Putin who prop up his regime, they will constitute a kind of lobby who, for selfish interests, will prevail on Putin to pull back on Ukraine for the sake of their own business climate. This idea is based on the fallacious assumption that oligarchs constitute some kind of separate and independent “business lobby” instead of state capitalists completely intertwined with the Kremlin and dependent on Putin for staying in business.

Yet Strelkov sees them, too, as potentially disloyal forces who will intrigue with the West for the sake of their wealth, or cut and run and try to live abroad — except as they wind up on sanctions lists, they can’t do that.

That is why he warns again “a Moscow Maidan with both left and right forces” and why he appears to offer conditional loyalty to Putin:

“We will strictly refrain from any opposition activity, especially destructive activity”. [...] We understand we are under conditions of war, and in war, any rebellion in the rear only plays into the hands of the enemy.”

Strelkov warned those who used his name for destructive purposes and said soon he would propose specific public organizations and actions to help Novorossiya and defend Russia

Despite media picking up this tag line, Strelkov did not say “My place is in Russia” — in fact, that phrase was contained in a question from Komsomolskaya Pravda as a way of summarizing Strelkov’s statement. Asked if he would go back to Donetsk, Strelkov said, “If I am mobilized, if I am ordered, I’m prepared to go to any region.”

But he acknowledged he had no plans to participate in elections and said “I do not believe in elections as such — look at who won the elections in Ukraine.”

Contrary to our reports and those of Western journalists, Strelkov claimed, “There were no Russian troops in mid August when I left.” He added:

“I won’t deny that there were volunteers fighting there, the best of the Russian army. I had several officers in my brigade who spent their vacation fighting for Novorossiya. There is no direct information about participation of Russian Federation forces.”

Strelkov acknowledged that the DPR and LPR territories were only partially controlled by “militia” and denounced the peace agreement as “shameful” because it would “lead to the full destruction of Novorossiya” and was a “virtual capitulation.” He believed the Ukrainian military was only using the ceasefire to arrange for an offensive and “is preparing for war with Russia.”

“Without widescale help from Russia, which I repeatedly asked for in my day and now continue to maintain, a final victory against the so-called Western community and Ukraine, for the militia is not possible.”

“Ukraine was, is, and will be part of the Russian world,” he concluded.

But the phony insurgents got that help, massively, and that has forced a Ukrainian retreat and peace talks, and now a ceasefire that has held nearly a week, despite numerous violations. Perhaps Strelkov has been overtaken by events. One of those stories that constantly plague public figures of all kinds in Russia appeared on a tabloid site and was massively linked on social media, claiming that Strelkov had hanged himself in a private home in Rostov Region but then it was discovered that it had originated 10 September before Strelkov gave his 11 September press conference.

What next? Strelkov said he had no immediate plans to return to the Donbass — and clearly he’s been replaced in the DPR leadership and Zakharchenko’s job offer hasn’t been revived. Perhaps he will go back to re-enacting the Battle of Borodino. Clearly, he’s networking with Dugin who has also lost his seat of power at Moscow State University, from which he was fired for extremism, although they still have Malofeyev’s support. Putin may not need them now, but they have been saved for the next battle, which may be on the home front.


Ukraine Liveblog Day 207: EU Sanctions Come Into Effect

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.

View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map
For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Below we will be making regular updates so check back often.


Do Ukrainians Want Poroshenko To Negotiate With Russia? Interpreter Podcast

This week on The Interpreter podcast Boston College Professor Matt Sienkiewicz and The Interpreter’s managing editor James Miller discuss James’ recent trip to Ukraine, the reform efforts underway there, and the possibility of a ceasefire — or even a permanent peace — in eastern Ukraine.

See our Ukraine front page for the latest news and analysis.

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Ukraine Liveblog Day 206: Russia Says Second ‘Humanitarian Convoy’ Waiting At Border

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.

View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map
For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Below we will be making regular updates so check back often.

Andrew Bowen
Andrew Bowen

Russia Has Conquered Eastern Ukraine, But Will The West Just Let Them Have It?

Like so many times before in the last year in Ukraine, enthusiasm has been quickly extinguished and replaced with uncertainty and fear, extinguishing exuberant hope with the imposition of external interests. The prospects of signing the European Union Association Agreement were replaced by blackmail from Russia to force Ukraine not to sign, the ouster of the corrupt Yanukovych government was met with the invasion of Crimea and then parts of eastern Ukraine, and just as Ukraine’s thrown-together scramble of Army, National Guard, Interior Ministry and volunteer battalions were seemingly on the cusp of victory against Russian-backed separatists, Russian soldiers—well armed and organized—appeared alongside the insurgents, dealing Ukraine a series of significant military setbacks and potentially ending any hope of a re-unification of its territory or of obtaining a swift end to the conflict.

How could it end like this? How could a revolution that started with the hope for a new Ukraine and a break from the offensively corrupt and inept regime of Yanukovych end in the fragmentation of the country?

Although to be sure there will be much more death and killing before all is said and done. The ceasefire, once again negotiated by Ukrainian President Poroshenko at the point of a gun, is barely holding. Backed by timely injections of Russian troops (and the threat of outright Russian invasion) and fresh from a series of victories, separatist leaders still demand independence and as a result Poroshenko is already talking about giving autonomy to rebel-held eastern Ukraine while still maintaining Ukraine’s territorial integrity. We may be witnessing the broad strokes of the end of the conflict as Kiev may not be able to continue its war against Russia, the West just simply wants an end to the conflict because it is more concerned about domestic issues, and Russia won’t let Kiev end the conflict without de-facto surrendering control over large parts of eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine’s military has struggled to stand up to Russia since March. When Russia invaded Crimea the Ukrainian military was in a frightful state after years of financial and political mismanagement, leaving only a scattered and ineffective force, at one time numbering only 6,000 combat-ready troops according to its own defense ministry. In response a massive call went out for everything from troops to equipment and especially funding. Riding a tide of patriotism, Ukrainians answered the call. Whether joining the hastily created National Guard units or joining volunteer battalions funded by oligarchs or right wing groups with checkered pasts, Ukraine was able to form a quasi-coherent fighting force to augment its skeletonesque military. Despite their limited or even non-existent training, these units were instrumental in blunting and ultimately reversing the progress of Pro-Russian separatists in the East that were led, supported and equipped by Russia. They were able to do this against an insurgency that was as much of a thrown-together militia as the volunteer battalions themselves, riddled with coordination and leadership issues and, for the most part, outgunned by the Ukrainian military with its small-but-effective air force and stockpiles of Soviet-era artillery.

Yet, despite increasing their combat effectiveness with every passing day, the lightly-armed volunteer battalions and National Guard are no match for the Russian army which has been openly invading since the end of August. This is especially evident when analyzing the weaponry that Ukrainian forces are facing. Until recently the separatists only armor consisted of older T-64BV tanks, an upgraded version of an older Soviet designed tank that is used in large numbers by Ukrainian forces, and since it is no longer in service within the Russian military there are large stockpiles that can be easily transferred to the rebels. This gave Russia a measure of deniability by allowing the separatists to claim that the tanks were captured from current Ukrainian forces. But as the conflict reaches a new stage with hardly disguised evidence of Russian involvement the need for such deniability decreases. The presence of increasing numbers of T-72B1 tanks, far more advanced than the T-64BV, along with large amounts of not only BM-21 Grad missile batteries and artillery support but also the ammunition necessary to sustain such combat operations, indicate a marked and determined increase in Russian support for the separatists that was not present until recently.

However, it is the presence of T-72BM tanks that gives the most concern to Ukrainian forces and proves Russia’s intent in Ukraine. It is a tank that is utilized in large numbers by the Russian military and equipped with advanced armor (Kontakt-5 Explosive Reactive Armour) that will defeat most anti-armor weaponry available to Ukrainian forces. As Joseph Dempsey of the think tank IISS noted:

The introduction of the T-72BM variant provides the separatists with a more advanced platform than the previous MBTs observed, and if employed effectively in numbers represents a greater threat to Ukrainian government armour in the region.

Only regular army Ukrainian forces will have the weaponry available to stop tanks like the T-72BM, and they are too few in number and far too spread out to effectively counter the threat. They are also hampered by communication issues between the regular military and the volunteer battalions. This leaves the lightly-armed volunteer battalions dangerously exposed, outgunned and outmatched.

This mismatch in capabilities has led to calls for arming the Ukrainians by some in the West. However it is becoming increasingly clear that the West is tiring of the crisis at the same time as Russia is doubling down.

To be sure arming the Ukrainians is an easy sound bite but it is also fraught with potential complications. Many of the volunteer battalions, while nominally falling under the authority of the Interior Ministry, operate under their own banner and command; one is even accused of several human rights abuses. The issue of giving untrained and independent units heavy weaponry is decision that should never be undertaken lightly. As Daniel Kennedy of OpenDemocracy recently wrote

Providing expensive weaponry to an army that lacks training or morale can often end up with that weaponry falling into the hands of the very people you are trying to stop. Given how Russian rebels have already learned how to use anti-aircraft weapons systems they have acquired, allowing them to capture even more weaponry from Ukrainian forces seems like a dangerous prospect.

But beyond the issues of controlling who ultimately ends up with the weapons, which is a concern no matter the situation when selling arms, there is the issue of effectiveness. Ukraine has large stockpiles of Soviet-era weaponry that has and continues to be extremely effective on the battlefield. What Ukraine is struggling with is command, control and coordination issues. There are too few well trained units that effectively know how to use the weaponry called for, and the disparate nature of Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Offensive (ATO)—as the operation in the East is called—pushes its command structure to its limit. The U.S. just announced a $60 million dollar aid package of non-lethal aid to Ukraine, but military advising and support to reorganize its command structures would be worth countless flak vests and bullets.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that the West doesn’t quite know what its interests are and continues to vacillate between accommodation and force in opposing and determined Kremlin. Strong EU sanctions came only belated in the face of the downing of a civilian airline, and in the face of a Russian invasion it threatens more sanctions with the caveat that they are already willing to weaken them if the ceasefire continues and Russia withdraws its troops—troops that it denies are even there other than on holiday.

Lethal aid or not, what is clear is that the threats of harsher sanctions are quickly undercut by the promises of easing them for positive Russian actions to end the conflict that they created, stocked and perpetuate. As it stands Ukraine is not able to win militarily in the East, even President Poroshenko admitted as much recently, and its ability to continue the fight is increasingly in danger as its economy continues to spiral downward. Yet even more troubling is the inability of the West to clearly define its interests and commitments to the conflict. The EU and the West need to clearly state to the Ukrainians (publicly or more importantly privately in serious conversations) what the limits of their support is along with conveying the certainty of their stance to the Russians should the West decide on a forceful—and committed—stance against Russia intervention in Ukraine.

Russia has made clear its positions on Ukraine. It has militarily backed the insurgents in eastern Ukraine, it has annexed Crimea, and it is in the process of annexing or creating a satellite state in eastern Ukraine. It’s time the West decided just where exactly it stands.


Ukraine Liveblog Day 205: A United Ukraine With an Autonomous East?

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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Editorial Desk
Editorial Desk

25 Years After, Europe Still Not Whole or Free

The following is a speech delivered by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at the Europe Conference in Oslo on 2 September 2014. It is reprinted from the website of the president of Estonia. The “25 Years After” is a reference to anti-communist democratic revolutions that began in 1989 in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Your Majesty King Harald,
Your Majesty Queen Sonja,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is genuinely an honor and a pleasure to address you here at the Urbygningen, the Clock Building.

This truly is a year of very many “round” anniversaries, in both good and bad. You in Norway celebrated the 200th anniversary of signing your Eidsvoll constitution. We in our part of the world celebrate the 25th anniversary of our own annus mirabilis, 1989, the year when the Berlin Wall came down, and then the Communist world had its first almost democratic elections in Poland, but which were nonetheless solidly won by the non-communists, despite all the mechanisms used to keep out the non-communists; and the Baltic peoples demonstrated their quest of liberty and independence in the Baltic way, the human chain that reached through all three countries. That was when we dared to dream of a “Europe whole and free“, a reunited and democratic Europe.

I should also mention another anniversary we celebrated exactly two days ago [on August 31], which was the 20th anniversary of the final departure of Russian troops from our soil. It was no easy task to get them to do it, they wanted to stay there. Something that in my country was not sufficiently appreciated at the time, today when we see where Russian troops did not leave, who did not manage to push and persevere the diplomacy that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania pursued – there continue to be Russian troops in Moldova, they are in Georgia, they are in Ukraine, they are in Armenia – that shows us how important it is for us to be able to be free of foreign domination. So that was 20 years ago.

The world order that we’d known for 50 years in 1989, the status quo of the preceding near half century was shifting and about to collapse. The world up to then had been, at least from our perspective, bi-polar, consisting of liberal democracy with market economies, found mainly in the West, versus illiberal autocracy combined with collective ownership, also known as communism, mainly in the East. Of course, just to keep things in perspective, most of the world was too poor to be considered part of either, whence the now rarely used term “The Third World” that was neither liberal democratic nor communist.

This neat, simplistic order was beginning to crumble and would soon collapse. The first semi-democratic election in the communist world was a milestone in what we thought was, and for the time felt to be, an irreversible march to liberty.

Also in that year, in 1989, an American, then at the State Department’s Policy planning staff, Francis Fukuyama, published what must be considered one of the seminal essays of the late twentieth century, The End of History, later expanded into a book of the same name. There, Fukuyama argued that the ideological debate between liberal democracy and authoritarian communism was over, and liberal democracy had won.

The argument has caused a lot of debate since, which is why it is important to note that Fukuyama did not say liberal democracy had won in the real world or that everyone in the world had embraced or even would embrace democracy – a criticism often leveled at him that I think is actually a strawman criticism. Rather, he said that the contest for ideas was over, that no one could any longer make claims for the superiority of an authoritarian regime. I might add here parenthetically that even that turned out to be unfortunately wrong, since the last seven months we’ve seen actually claims, made even by a prime minister of a European country, that in fact liberal democracy was over.

But at that time, the Soviet Union had yet to collapse, but its days were numbered and when it did, we took it as proof of Fukuyama’s Hegelian view of history and the victory of liberal democracy.

For a while it indeed seemed that that was at least the direction toward which we were moving.

But when we look around in Europe today, we see that not only is Europe not whole and free, we see the ghosts from the painful 20th century returning to our midst. Ghosts that we thought we’d never see again, that we had buried deep in history’s trashbin.

Today, when we look around us, we see it all again. The annexation of territory, the violation of borders, religious conservativism pairing with political authoritarianism and imperialist bravado. 80% of Russians support annexation through military aggression in Crimea, where the Anschluss – and I use that term most seriously here – the Anschluss of territory was justified by the presence of co-ethnics. Moreover, there is widespread support for an anti-liberal attack against decadent Western “permissiveness,” be it in freedom of speech or choice of life-partners. Indeed, we see that liberal democracy has not only failed to win the battle of ideas against authoritarianism, it has failed even to prevent the resurrection of that once vanquished demon, fascism. The nationalist fervor east of us is expressed in arts in a way that makes Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will look like a liberal programme – I suggest you look at the video of the co-called “biker show” staged on August 8 this year in Sevastopol. It is on You Tube. It is a genuine Gesamtkunstwerk. Everything is there – music, art, ballet, motorcycle gangs, it’s all there.

Sadly, these illiberal moods are resurgent not only in Russia, where a generation has grown up since the end of communist rule, but even in what we thought of as bastions of liberal democracy, in Western Europe, which should know all too well the demons of fascism and the ideologies of hatred. Not in Ukraine, where the two neo-fascist candidates in the elections of 25 May received about 1 percent each, as opposed to Western Europe, where we saw how countries voted in the European parliamentary elections – a number of neo-fascist, right-wing nationalist, often racist parties not only overcame the threshold for getting into the European parliament but did rather well, and were even among the most popular parties.

It is the likes of the French Front National, the British National Party, the Freedom Party in the Netherlands, the Golden Dawn in Greece or Jobbik in Hungary who currently support the actions of the Kremlin. They were the ones who went to observe the so-called referendum in Crimea, and they are the ones who currently arrange “international conferences” with Kremlin ideologists to share their imperialist and racist geopolitical fantasies.

So what went wrong? Why is it that the ideals of liberal democracy fall into disregard and disrepute even in the heart of Europe and aggressive, fiercely antiliberal doctrines have massive support beyond our eastern border? Why is it that today everything seems more insecure than even in the Cold War, when at least we had agreed upon rules of international behaviour regarding what countries may or may not do?

Part of the answer lies in another essay that later became a best-selling book as well, Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilisations, that appeared four years after Fukuyama’s essay. Huntington saw future conflicts in the post-ideological age to be ones between cultures and civilisations, that seemed to be also at the time unfortunately verified by the 9/11 attacks, motivated as they were by a religion-based antipathy toward modernity.

He also, of course, received a lot of criticism for that idea. But soon enough, we were indeed challenged on our own ground, in empirical reality, not political science theory. In New York, in Washington, in mass attacks in Madrid, London and Bombay. All those challenged the liberal order, attacking inter alia democratic elections, the equality of men and women, the separation of church and state, the rule of law, not men or God. Those attackers are the greatest Huntingtonians, just as the authoritarians who more and more boldly define themselves in opposition to our “decadent” democratic values.

Until recently it seemed that this was a revolt against modernity, against the disruptions of globalized capitalism. We still thought, though, that on our own continent the wars of the 20th century, the defeat of Nazism and the collapse of communism had settled, as Fukuyama maintained, once and for all the primacy and the Hegelian ineluctability of the triumph of liberal democracy. Indeed we thought then, as some former Chancellors still do, that democracy in Russia reigned supreme.

As we have seen, however, we were wrong. Ideas such as territorial annexation, based on co-ethnics abroad, which we saw last in 1938 with the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia and the Anschluss of the Sudetenland and Austria – these were ideas we had believed were settled for good on May 8, 1945, but they have not been settled, they have been resurrected.

That was just one of the rules declared null and void. There is the prohibition of aggression that came into effect with the UN Charter, also from 1945, stating that Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state – that is the UN Charter, just to remind you, almost 70 years old.

When one party violates the rules, we all need to rethink what those rules mean and how they can be enforced or reinforced. What was agreed to and generally followed even at the height of the Cold War today lies shattered, because the leaders of one country decided that those rules do not apply to them.

Besides what we agreed to in 1945, the next fundamental foundation of security on our continent that was compromised were the Helsinki Accords from 1975. There, the trans-Atlantic countries – all the way from Vancouver to Vladivostok – agreed not to use force to change borders or challenge the political independence of any state. Recall, this was signed under Leonid Brezhnev; we agreed to regard one another’s frontiers as inviolable and to refrain from making each other’s territory the object of military occupation. No such occupation or acquisition, according to these Accords, would be recognized as legal.

Then there’s the 1990 CSCE Charter of Paris for a new Europe, in which the signatories of all the then members, including newly free Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, as well as Russia’s legal predecessor, the USSR, agreed to “fully recognize the freedom of States to choose their own security arrangements”.

I quote that to recall the argument that has recently, or in the last six years, been offered to justify the attacks and invasions against both Georgia in 2008 and now against Ukraine. In both cases, the argument was that those countries wanted to join NATO, or recently, the argument was made that those countries wanted to have the Association Agreement with the EU. And frankly, Estonia signed its Association Agreement with the EU in 1995, almost ten years before we joined the European Union, and believe me, what you get out of the Association Agreement is not much – you agree to follow their rules but you have no influence over your being accepted. We did get exchange programmes – teachers could teach abroad and students could go and study abroad, but that’s about it with the Association Agreement, and that is now being used as an excuse to invade a country. And remember, it was just Ukraine’s desire to sign the Association Agreement, not even a “security arrangement”, that led to the country’s dismemberment and an open, if not declared, war against it.

All these agreements were concluded in the liberal spirit of Immanuel Kant’s essay Perpetual Peace from 1795. Aside from the internal market, the intellectual foundations of the European Union as well of NATO ultimately actually rest on Immanuel Kant’s essay. Kant believed in what has two centuries later become our dominant foreign policy mantra: republics – he said, but today that would mean for us democratic states based on the rule of law – who form a federation, do not wage war on each other. The European Union has, since its origins in the Coal and Steel Community in 1951, amply proved Kant’s thinking to be correct. Where we went wrong, though, was that we believed that the agreements of 1945 to the present, the ones I just enumerated, also constituted a Kantian federation. Alas, they did not. And the communities of liberal democracies had not solved what to do with countries outside a federation of democracies.

By and large, we have extrapolated from Kant and the experiences of the EU and NATO to come to believe that, tied to a latticework of agreements, countries will not engage in aggression, forgetting that in the case of the the UN, the CSCE, the OSCE, and numerous lesser treaties, that Kant was right but offered no solutions on how to get along with despotisms and tyrannies.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thus today we find ourselves in a completely new security environment. It is not a “New Cold War”, because during the Cold War all of those agreements were followed. Yes, the Cold War was terrible, we were full of fear, but indeed and in fact, the agreements signed with the Soviet Union, the agreements to which the Soviet Union was party, worked. They were followed. We could trust them. When in 1975, almost 40 years ago, the Helsinki Final Act was signed, we had reason to believe and it turned out to be true that in fact they did not violate territories. Well, here we are today. Now, we’re back in an age described by a predecessor of Immanuel Kant a hundred years earlier, Thomas Hobbes. We are living now, in Europe, in a Hobbesian state of nature, in which, whether the bullets are flying or not, agreements don’t count and life is a war of all against all. And on top of that we are also abandoning the prospect of economic progress and enrichment, which has also been one of the strengths of liberal democracies – that you can make more money in liberal democracies (unless you get paid by Gazprom).

In this radically new situation, the liberal democratic West is still confused about what to do. Just watch what will happen the day after tomorrow and the day after that [September 5-6] in Wales. We have come up with sanctions, but the situation keeps escalating. We are still far from having a consensus about what to do next. What we all must realize, however, is that once the rules, the Helsinki accords and others, no longer hold in relation to one signatory, then the situation has changed for all of us.

One of the great triumphs after the Bosnian war is that those countries that were at war with each other have actually signed the CSCE Paris Charter. What do we do when various countries decide that the CSCE accords do not mean anything any more and they can violate them – I don’t even want to speculate but frankly, the possibilities seem rather dire to me. If one of them can get away with it, then there will also be others who will want to get away with it, and I am not even talking about countries outside the CSCE space. Once we go beyond those countries that are today in the OSCE – they have not been bound by much anyway, but if they see the success of the policies we have seen, then I think it only adds to the instability of the world. So we have to realize that the situation is far more serious than we are often led to believe, and that we have to come up with a solution.

Another problem we also have to face is a view I have encountered over several decades that “this is just an East European issue”. Ukraine, however, is not a “faraway country we know nothing about” – to quote British Foreign Secretary Neville Chamberlain when he agreed to allow Adolf Hitler dismember Czechoslovakia in Munich in 1938. No aggression should be dismissed by such arguments ever again. Just yesterday – September 1 – was another “anniversary”. On August 23, in addition to the anniversary of the Baltic Way where we all held hands 25 years ago, it was 75 years since the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact – that was a reason why we had the Baltic way on the 23rd of August – and yesterday we recognised that it was 75 years since Hitler invaded Poland, which was a week after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union was signed.

It is now in Ukraine that Europe’s meaning and identity is fought over. If some part of Europe is not free, no part of Europe is actually secure. Will Europe and the world understand this time around that Eastern Europe is Europe too – that Europe extends beyond the borders of the so-called old members of the European Union – those that were members before 2004? Will they recognize that Ukraine and each European country is entitled to respect for their sovereignty and for their territorial integrity, granted to them by international law that has been signed on to also by countries that are currently engaged in aggression, and by agreements that we have all signed?


I speak of these conundra because the liberal order is being challenged by authoritarian, illiberal, yet often successful market economies in ways we did not foresee when the Berlin Wall was torn down and history was supposed to end.

I would argue that if we are to look for an analagous era, we can find it in the pre-Cold War period, in the confusion of the period of, say, 1946 or 1947, feeling around to figure out what we should do. We didn’t know what we were doing in those days, we observed the step-by-step toppling of governments in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland… This finally led the British foreign minister Bevin to actually propose the idea for NATO to the United States. It was a British socialist’s idea, just in case you forgot – sometimes people forget that, especially some of our neighbours who are not members of NATO, think it is a kind of a right-wing American thing, but in fact, NATO was proposed by a British socialist. And as I understand from the history of Norway, so, too, here it was in fact a left wing government that decided and understood. Perhaps the socialists actually get it better, because they know – I used to be one, we know – that the idea of social democracy does not have just the “social” part but also the “democracy” part. The people who were taking over in various countries in Eastern Europe, they might have been social enough, but they were not democratic.

So, we feel instinctively, as we did then, or as the previous generation did, that we are in a new era. We want desperately to believe in the old coalitions; the old coalitions of 1944-45-46 of course included the Soviet Union and the Western allies. We want to hang on to them in the hope that all this will go away. That Crimea will be restored to Ukraine, that Eastern Ukraine will calm down, that we don’t have to go on with sanctions, that we don’t have to raise defense expenditures. That we can go on making money with our deals and our financial institutions and our lucrative trade. Some of us still are like the plaintive teen-ager who asks, Why can’t we all just get along?

I can’t resist here and not quote Lenin, who immortally said, “the Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”. Not being stupid, we know that things are going awry, but maybe we can still make one more deal, build one more pipeline, sell one more bit of military hardware before we have to stop. Which we see right now. “Let us just sell this ship, after that we won’t sell them any more, right?”

And maybe within Europe, the right-wing populists, the Jobbiks, the National Fronts and others will eventually become reasonable and endorse liberal democratic values.

And maybe we can convince Russia that homophobia, censorship and repressions at home, and little green men, and accusations of fascism in Ukraine, and the disdainful mocking of prisoners of war that we have seen on video in East Ukrainian towns, and sending uninvited “humanitarian convoys” and Russian troops “on a vacation” to Ukraine – that it was all a big mistake. That we still can wake up from a bad dream and restore the status quo ante at the end of history.

But ladies and gentlemen, Peace, Love and Woodstock is over. We’ve just had our Altamont. And if you got that reference to Altamont, you’re about to enter, if not already have entered, retirement. To those who don’t know, it was a massive concert in the US a year after Woodstock, during which a man was stabbed to death – that’s what the Altamont was known for, but it signalled the end of the good feelings of Woodstock, and I think we are in the same moment right now. So 25 years after the hope of a whole and free Europe seemed to be almost possible to realise, we are further from it today than we might have imagined just a year ago.

So we must realise the we find ourselves in a Hobbesian world again – in Anno Domini 2014. I do hope, however, that together we will find a way out of this mess. More and more people understand how serious the situation is, and we rely on our strong alliances, and we are grateful to the US and our other NATO allies who have shown their strong support and dedication to our mutual commitments, and even more so than to the simple legal commitments, to the liberal democratic values that really form the basis of membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The key to restoring stability in Europe is a sound transatlantic relationship – the US engagement and leadership and a Europe willing to assume more of the burden of providing collective security. The unity of the liberal democratic world, within Europe and between Europe and the US, is more important than ever. Of course, no stability can be achieved unless Russia stops its intervention and aggression in Ukraine and until Ukraine regains full control over its territory and its borders. We all would like to see a longstanding, diplomatic solution to the crisis. But we cannot speak seriously of a diplomatic process or of ceasefire negotiations as long as the intervention or aggression continues and its perpetrator will not even admit its role in that process. In this situation it is crucial what the heads of states and governments of Europe and transatlantic allies will decide within the next few days at the NATO Summit in Wales.

No one in Europe, in the West, can now get back to their daily business, or as we say, business as usual, and forget that the occupation and annexation of Crimea is illegal and violates international law. We must keep up pressure to prevent further aggression by Russia against its neighbours. If we don’t make it clear to Russia that it has behaved in a manner that is both illegal and unacceptable, we could end up with even more serious conflicts in the future.

We know our values, and we cannot allow Europe to ever again be divided into “spheres of influence”.

Thank you.


Ukraine Liveblog Day 204: Dutch Safety Board Publish MH17 Preliminary Findings

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs.

View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map
For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Below we will be making regular updates so check back often.

SkyNews footage of Russian armor outside of Mariupol September 3.