Ukraine Liveblog Day 197: Ukraine Reportedly Loses Control Of Telmanovo, North Of Mariupol

September 2, 2014
The Ukrainian flag has been removed from the Telmanovo regional administration. Photo: Petr Shelomovskiy

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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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.

State Department on Russian Invasion of Ukraine; Invocation of ‘Nuclear Option’, New US Ambassador to Moscow

The State Department has published the transcript of the daily noon press briefing. Today there are a number of important topics covered, including Putin’s threat against Kiev, his invocation of the “nuclear option,” the Russian invasion of Ukraine, US-Russian relations, and the new US ambassador.

Some highlights:

On Putin’s threats that he could be in Kiev “in two weeks”:

QUESTION: Can I go back to President Putin and his comments?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I don’t think that anyone in this government, in
this Administration, has commented on these – this “I can be in Kyiv in
two days” – those comments.

QUESTION: Two weeks.

QUESTION: Two weeks, sorry, not two days – although maybe two
days is more accurate; who knows – in two weeks. So do you have any – do
you regard these comments by the Russian president as provocative? How
do you see these, especially given what’s going on right now with the
Ukrainian allegations that the Russians have actually invaded?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is hardly the language of a statesman
seeking peace and prosperity for people, for people in the region. I
understand that there have been some explanations about language being
taken out of context from the Kremlin. I’ll let them speak to that.

QUESTION: And which should sound familiar to denizens of this building who have seen remarks reported.

MS. PSAKI: Well, James, I think it would be more useful, of
course, for – to hear President Putin say that in two weeks he will
remove all Russian troops and pull back the assistance, financial and
military, that he’s providing to the separatists. That certainly is —

QUESTION: So you’re giving him two weeks? Is that the deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think —

QUESTION: Wouldn’t you like to see it happen sooner rather than later?

MS. PSAKI: I referenced two weeks. Of course we’d want it to
happen sooner, but the reference to two weeks was in the two weeks in
the quote.

On the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and Ukrainian statements that they are fighting the Russian army:

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to doubt any of the
allegations being made by the Ukrainians that they’re actually now
fighting? It’s not just – it’s not just pro – there’s a pro-Russian
separatists they’re fighting, it is the Russian army itself. And do you
have any comments – since you did have a comment on President Putin and
his “two week” remark, do you have any comment on the Ukrainian defense
minister talking about this conflict as a great patriotic war?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the first question, Matt – I think Russia has
certainly continued to increase its intervention in eastern Ukraine and
is responsible for the escalating violence. We know it’s encouraged by
Russia. It’s funded by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia.
And obviously, we’ve seen over the course of the last several weeks an
escalating level of aggression from the Russian-backed separatists, and
obviously, Russia has been fully engaged in that effort.

In terms of the specific comments of the defense minister, I’m happy to take a look at them if you want to send them over.


QUESTION: So, okay, can you speak – so speaking to the
confirmed reports, are there Russian troops in Ukraine right now
fighting the Ukrainian army, as the Ukrainians claim?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, I don’t have anything new to
confirm for you independently from the United States. Obviously, we’ve
seen an increasing level of aggression from the Russians. That includes
the movement of troops across the border, which NATO and others have
certainly spoken to and confirmed over the course of the last week. That
includes continued – the continued effort to provide military
assistance and the financing.

QUESTION: That means movement of troops across the – movement
of Russian troops across the Ukrainian border into Ukraine. Is that what
you’re talking about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s been confirmed – I mean, last week.

QUESTION: Okay. So why is that not an invasion? Why do you shy
away from this? I mean, the NATO commander said last week that if this
was happening in a NATO member, it would invoke – Article 5 would be
invoked, because it would be something that – it requires a military
response. If one member is attacked, they’re all attacked. So why not
call it the way you see it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think in our view it doesn’t matter what we
call it. We’re calling it an illegal incursion. We’re saying they’re
violating the sovereignty of Ukraine. We’ve obviously increased not only
the number of sanctions and the kind of sanctions we’re putting in
place, but we continue to consider a range of requests that the
Ukrainians have issued. So our actions, in our view, and what we’re
going to do about it is more important than what we call it.

On Russian lies about what they are really doing in Ukraine:

QUESTION: All right. I have two more very, very brief ones.
One – well, what do you think then – since you’re convinced that the
Ukrainians and NATO and everyone else is right, that there is an
incursion, that the Russian troops are there – what do you make of the
Russian denials that they’re not?

MS. PSAKI: I think that contradicts the facts on the ground
and what we’ve all seen, not just the United States, but a range of
countries, and certainly NATO as they’ve spoken to over the last week.

QUESTION: So President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and
Ambassador Churkin, and Russian defense ministry people, they’re all
lying when they say no, we don’t have anyone – we don’t have any troops

MS. PSAKI: I’ll let you put labels on it, but I think the facts are the facts.

On the new US ambassador:

QUESTION: So the given the fact that you’ve essentially just
accused the Russian leadership of not telling the truth and lying, what
is Ambassador Tefft going to Moscow – well, one, do you know if he’s
going to be welcomed in Moscow? And two – by the Russians – and two,
what’s he going to go there to do, if you’ve — if you think that the
Russian Government as a whole, or at least the top echelons of it, are
just lying?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think it’s important to remember here
that there are a range of issues we work with Russia on. It’s not just
Ukraine and our efforts to pursue a diplomatic path forward. Certainly,
that’s one of the issues that the Secretary discusses with Foreign
Minister Lavrov, and I expect the Ambassador will certainly as well. And
obviously, having an ambassador-level diplomat in place is something we
think is important in a place like Russia.

But we work with on them – we work with them on other issues, and
that will continue, and that will be a part of the dialogue he has as
ambassador to the country.

On Putin’s invocation of the nuclear option:

QUESTION: Did you see where President Putin, in published
remarks, said that he wanted to remind his listeners that Russia is a
very powerful nuclear nation? You saw those reported comments?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’ve seen them, and they happened over the course of the weekend, James.


MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And it was interpreted by many – including our colleagues at The Daily Beast,
who put a large headline on it – as escalating the situation, and a
kind of a veiled threat from Mr. Putin that he is prepared to take this
localized conflict and inflate it to the level of a nuclear conflict. Is
that something that concerns you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a series of escalatory
remarks made by President Putin. I don’t want to judge or predict what
his remark meant. I don’t have any assessment of that, so I would ask
you to ask them that question.

QUESTION: Should we be concerned when the spokesperson for the
State Department, three days or four days after the president of the
Russian Federation invokes the nuclear threat, hasn’t heard about it?

MS. PSAKI: I think I would hardly ascribe it as exactly that,
James. I think you are leading to a conclusion about what it meant, but
I’m happy to give you a test of what happened over the weekend and see
how you do on that test. (Laughter.)

For full transcript go here.

Large Russian Military Convoy Heading to Lugansk

A large Russian military convoy has been spotted on the highway near Krasnodon. A citizen’s video has been uploaded to YouTube.

It is likely the largest Russian convoy we have ever seen in the southeast of Ukraine.

Ukraine@War has geolocated the convoy to the Krasnodon road (see Google maps), and notes that the convoy has 122 vehicles.

It could be heading toward Sukhodolsk (Sukhodilsk); it is not clear whether it is
heading south or whether it will return to Russia as it is near a fork
in the road. We have previously reported on a Russian convoy passing through Sukhodilsk on August 18.

A number of the soldiers are wearing white ties on their arms, which we have seen Russian soldiers wear before.

The vehicles are painted over green and do not appear to have any identifying marks or license plates, although the Russian letter “A” is painted on some.


Several vehicles had red crosses on them.



For further information, see Ukraine@War.

Rout of Ukrainian Military from Novokaterynikva

The Ukraine military was routed from Novokaterynivka (Novokaterinovka), AP reported.

The Ukrainian solders were an easy target as they launched a desperate run to safety. Pounded by a gauntlet of rocket shells, blown up in their vehicles, they died by the dozens.

In fields around the eastern Ukrainian village of Novokaterynivka, more than thirty army vehicles lay charred and pulverized into twisted piles of metal Tuesday – the result of a devastating weekend ambush by separatist forces.

The rout marked a major intensification in the separatists’ offensive in eastern Ukraine – one that the government in Kiev, NATO and the United States say has been sustained by Russia’s direct military support.

The Daily Mail also reported on the devastation:

The body of a Ukrainian soldier has been found hanging
from a high-voltage power line after he was blasted clear of his
armoured vehicle after it was hit with a shell.

man was killed near the village of Novokaterynivka, in eastern Ukraine
after pro-Russian separatists intercepted a column of Ukrainian army


Earlier reports from Russian-backed fighters indicated they had claimed victory.

Translation: During a brutal battle at the town of Novokaterinovka by the militia fighters, 2 T-64 tanks, 9 BMPs, and up to 10 vehicles, 24 people were taken into captivity.

The pro-Russian separatist site Colonel Cassad published a number of pictures of the destroyed armor:



Putin Declares NATO ‘A Major Threat’

President Vladimir Putin has been ratcheting up the rhetoric on the eve of the NATO summit in Wales this Thursday, AP reports:

Russia declared NATO a major “threat” on Tuesday after the Western military alliance announced plans to reinforce defences in eastern Europe because of the Kremlin’s perceived stoking of war in Ukraine.

Moscow’s surprise declaration of a shift in its military doctrine came just ahead of a NATO summit in Wales on Thursday at which beleaguered Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will lobby US President Barack Obama for military support.

Obama will deliver a message of firm NATO support for its newest members from the former Soviet empire when he visits the tiny Baltic state of Estonia on Wednesday.

Putin’s remarks follow another veiled threat when he appeared to invoke “the nuclear option,” AP reported:

Prospects for a political settlement looked dim just a few weeks ago while the Ukrainian troops were methodically tightening their noose around pro-Russia rebel strongholds in the east, but Kiev’s hopes for a quick victory were short-lived. A rebel counter-offensive has quickly turned the tide against the Kiev government, inflicting huge losses and raising the threat of Ukraine losing access to the energy-rich Sea of Azov.

The West has accused Russia of sharply escalating the conflict by sending regular army units into Ukraine after months of covert assistance to the rebellion and has threatened more sanctions.

Putin’s apparent response is: What you call a Russian invasion is nothing compared to what we could do and all options are on the table. The Kremlin’s halfhearted denial of Putin’s warning that Moscow could seize the Ukrainian capital in two weeks if it wished, which he reportedly made to European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso last week, only reinforced the signal that Russia will not back off.

Putin’s comment last week emphasizing Russia’s nuclear arsenal appeared to send the same tough message to the West: Don’t mess with us.

 Meanwhile, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Obama opposed further militarization of the conflict.

Entire Pskov ‘Company’ Killed in Ukraine: Local Newspaper

An entire company of Pskov paratroopers has been killed fighting in Ukraine, reported, citing an article in the local newspaper Pskovskaya Guberniya published today September 2.

(Note: the links in this article to the original sources may not work either due to overload of the pages as they are widely being accessed in Russia now, or possibly because of removal of the articles; the web cache for Pskovskaya Guberniya can be tried here).

Pskovskaya Guberniya say that after publishing the news of three paratroopers’ funerals last week, they received at their editorial offices a tape claiming to be recorded interviews with paratroopers who requested anonymity. They believed the tape to be authentic. A copy of the transcript has been posted on the blog of Pskov legislator Lev Shlosberg.

Shlosberg is recovering from injuries sustained in an assault by unknown persons last week which he ties to his investigation of what happened to the paratroopers in his home region.

The sources claim on the tape that only 10 men have survived out of a regiment numbering 80; among them was Leonid Kichatkin, whose funeral was observed by Russian journalists August 25. Up to 140 paratroopers could have died, say the sources, since the division fighting in Ukraine was made up not only of regular army but specially-assigned troops.

Friends of Kichatkin said that he died in battle and that they would “punch out” the man who pretended to be him on the phone to fool reporters.

Shlosberg told Russian blogger Oleg Kashin that the families of the paratroopers were told to keep quiet, and were threatened with loss of state welfare support if they didn’t.

He said that the causes of death were listed as variously “explosion of a gas tank,” “heart attack” or “stroke” and the place of death was not indicated.

He said one mother of a paratrooper wrote on her social media page that “everything was made up” and that the “journalists are bastards,” and that her son was “alive and well.” But he was said to be in the hospital with an amputated leg. He thought it was possible that such social media accounts could be taken over by authorities.

The regiment left for Ukraine on the 20th at 10:00 am, and were told not to turn on phones

The Interpreter has translated an excerpt of the recorded interview. .

Voice 1: Yes…the telephones were intercepted. There is an American electronic warfare brigade there.

Voice 1: I’m telling you, how it was, I’ll tell you. We were going along, shit, looking for those f**king Ukes, as they call them. We looked for them, shit. It turns out, we were detected, and wham, we were drawn in, lured into an ambush, you see? Whoosh. We were f**ked. Wham, shit, we jumped out on the road, thee was a field there, f**k, there were sunflowers and a checkpoint. They began to bomb it bang-bang-bang, they destroyed it. We then went further along the field. And the shooting is coming from there, you see, we were moving toward where the shooting was coming from.

Voice 2: In short, in an open place?

Voice 1: Yes…From there, from the other side, they were also shooting. Our artillery were firing on Georgievka. They knocked out whomever they saw, do you see? It was a battle, how could you know. Really…They were firing from that side, firing, firing …You don’t know where it’s coming from, in general, where the shelling is coming from.

Voice 2: And where were you in general in Rostov, in the hospital?

Voice 1: Uh-huh.

Voice 2: Well, where are those people who were killed? Where are they now in general, what happened?

Voice 1: I don’t know…

Voice 2: The [bodies] remained there? Are they picking them up?

Voice 1: I don’t know…they sent them out…You see Lyonka [Kichatkin] was transferred here. Maybe they sent them here. T*** has a list, who is where. Who was killed, who wasn’t, you see?

We will have more of the translation on our Russia This Week blog later today.

Novotroitskoye, On Donetsk-Mariupol Road, Occupied By Russian-Backed Forces

Yesterday, RBK-Ukraine reported that Russian-backed fighters for the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ had captured the town of Novotroitskoye in the Donetsk region. 

According to the report, fighters from the separatist Kalmius battalion had entered the town and were bragging that Volnovakha would fall within hours. They also said that Ukrainian armoured personnel carriers had been destroyed in Yelenovka, to the north.

Novotroitskoye lies on a main road from Donetsk to Mariupol. It appears,judging from reports today, that the parallel north-south route to the east via Telmanovo is now under the control of Russian or Russian-backed fighters.

Ukrainian sources still claim that Volnovakha is under government control despite separatist claims. We have yet to see evidence or first hand reports that the town has been captured by Russian-backed forces. 

The collapse of Ukrainian control of the Novotroitskoye-Volnovakha route would leave Mariupol frighteningly exposed and consolidate Russian control of the Donbass.


The reports of the capture of Novotroitskoye have been echoed by other journalists today:

According to our intelligence, an ‘Army of Novorossiya’ BTR is parked on the road between Novotroitskoye and Yelenovka. It’s not known what has happened to the Ukrainian checkpoints closer to Donetsk.

Contradictory Statements from Russian-Backed ‘Novorossiya’ Fighters on Demands to Kiev for Independence

The Russian state media has been trying to cover the contradictory statements from various leaders of the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic,” who are now in Minsk in talks with Ukraine and the EU.

Before the latest round of talks, on August 31, Pavel Gubarev, the self-proclaimed “people’s governor of “Donetsk People’s Republic” who is now calling himself “the leader of the Novorossiya Party” said Kiev’s proposals were “absurd, and out of touch,” reported.

Translation:  Militia expect a relevant discussion from Kiev and readiness to make concessions.

He reiterated calls for Ukrainian troops to leave the Donbass:

must leave now, if they want to return home. Although I don’t support
very much the very idea of the humanitarian corridor. It will be just if
the National Guardsmen surrender to captivity. We do not shell civilian
towns and do not torture POWs, as Ukrainian soldiers do. We have nothing
to hide and therefore we are always open to observers, including the
OSCE mission. Although there is always the risk that we are cooperating
not with observers, but with military intelligence.

In fact,
Ukrainian soldiers were shelled by Russian troops as they tried to go
through the corridor, and there is ample documentation of the
Russian-backed fighters have shelled civilians areas and tortured their
prisoners, and of course kidnapped and held OSCE observers for over a

The business publication probed the contradictory statements further. They noted that yesterday
September 1, ITAR TSS reported that the two “people’s republics” of
Donetsk and Lugansk were talking about a common buffer zone of security
with Ukraine, about post-war reconstruction of economic, cultural and
social ties with Ukraine, and not making claims on Ukrainian territory.

DPR Vice Premier Andrei Purgin was cited on these topics after the
contact group meeting in Minsk. He was then quoted as saying that the
Russian-backed fighters’ demands on Kiev were negotiations as equal
partners, recognition of a special status for the DPR and LPR, and also
amnesty for all fighters and political prisoners.

RIA Novosti quoted Purgin as follows:

can say that we do not claim territory of Ukraine — neither the
Donetsk nor the Lugansk republics. We can say that we will preserve the
socio-cultural and other territories for Ukrainians. Nevertheless,
undoubtedly, we are part of the Russian world.

The term “Russian
world” is a political term used by President Putin to designate anywhere
in the former Soviet Union and the world at large where there are
ethnic Russians or Russian speakers.

But then late in the
evening, Prime Minister Zakharchenko refuted the statements attributed
to his vice premier. And Purgin himself made a rebuttal on the official web site of the Supreme Soviet of the DPR.

In an interview with
, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, prime minister of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” clarified:

stand only the following position, and I emphasize, on negotiations
with Kiev with equal rights. We are not getting into any special
statuses. We could agree to a postponed status, but that’s a bit of a
different question. The main theme — a complete withdrawal of forces
beyond the territory of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, and only after
that we will sit down and talk to Kiev about partner relations as
partners with equal rights. We do not want to remain within the
boundaries of Ukraine, either territorially, or politically, or in the
financial vector, but only as partners with equal rights.

Discussions of what form the status of the DPR will look like in the
future have been ascribed to Andrei Purgin. Has he made any statements
in this regard or have the wire services somehow distorted this

Zakharchenko: I think that they have distorted the
information. Andrei Purgin did not have any right to make any political
statements for the simple reason that he was not authorized even to
speak about this. Since he is a disciplined person, he understands
completely what subordination is and responsibility for his statements,
he did not make these statements. I had the honor to talk with him on
the telephone and today will talk with him in person. Over the
telephone, he said there wasn’t anything like that. You can publish my
position so that everyone hears it, all the prime ministers. I have the
last word on this anyway. then asked Kirill Koktysh, an
expert on political theory at Moscow Institute for International
Relations (MGIMO) to comment. He said that the different statements should not be
viewed as disagreement in the ranks of the “militia” leaders, but should
be seen as a tactic in the negotiation process, which not only the DPR
has used. He noted that by having the former president of Ukraine,
Leonid Kuchma, as a negotiator, Kiev can always claim he has no
authorization and back away from his  proposals. “The militia are playing an analogous game,” said

Kremlin Advisor Blames Ukraine War on US

As we reported, Putin aide Sergei Glazyev spoke at the conference in Yalta of Russian ultranationalists, Russian-backed fighters, and European far-right party members, expounding on a theory of “Novorossiya” joining the Russian-led Customs Union.

RosBiznesKonsulting (RBK or now has an interview with Glazyev published 1 September. The Interpreter has translated an excerpt

RBK: You place responsibility for the military conflict in Ukraine
on the USA. Does that mean that negotiations for settlement should be
held in Washington, and not Kiev?

Glazyev: The source of the
entire war in Ukraine, the coup d’etat and our current military
operation is Washington. This is where the commands and the financing
emanate from. Americans directly command not only [Ukrainian President]
Poroshenko, the [Dnepropetrovsk governor, businessman Igor] Kolomoyskiy,
[Verkhovna Rada Chairman Aleksandr] Turchinov, [Prime Minister Arseniy]
Yatsenyuk, [SBU Chairman Valentin] Nalivaychenko and [Defense Minister
Valeriy] Heletey. They fulfill the instructions not only of Poroshenko,
but the American ambassador. But the USA must be isolated from the talks
— their strategy is to unleash world war, and since to unleash it without
the consent of the European countries and NATO members is impossible,
therefore the Europeans must be worked with. I believe that in Minsk, a
big breakthrough has been achieved, in that for the first time, there
were no Americans, which provides a chance to talk.

Glazyev also
noted that he “saw no future for Ukraine” because “Poroshenko is leading
the country to ruin,” but that the Donbass had a “positive trade

When RBK pointed out that the factories in southeastern Ukraine
are not working due to the war, Glazyev reiterated a common fallacy
about the region, which overlooks its subsidies:

Of course, when they all start working
again…Don’t forget that the Donbass is the main region to provide Ukraine
a hard- currency profit. All the super-consumption of Kiev is built at the
expense of the super-exploitation of Donbass.

Asked why Russia
had not recognized the independence of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” Glazyev
said that the Russian leadership “is guided by the norms of
international law, and they presuppose multilateral recognition.”

He did
not reiterate his concept that “Novorossiya” could join the Customs
Union, although the talks in Minsk are among the European Union,
Ukraine, and the Customs Union.

Further Reports Of Ukrainian Losses On Donetsk-Telmanovo Road

More evidence has emerged of major Ukrainian losses along the strategically important route from Donetsk to Telmanovo.

The route is important as it connects to both the recently-occupied town of Novoazovsk and the port city of Mariupol. The city will be under even greater threat should Russian or Russian-backed separatist forces from the north link up with Russian forces who crossed the border by the coast to take Novoazovsk. 

Earlier, we reported that Ukrainian forces were no longer in control of Telmanovo itself. This led us to question whether Ukraine was still in control of the town of Komsomolskoye, further north along the road. Ukrainian forces appeared to have established control over that area by August 30.

However reports published today now indicate that Komsomolskoye has been abandoned by Ukrainian forces, and that heavy fighting has been under way in the area.

Writing in Kommersant, Ilya Barabanov reports that Komsomolskoye has now been abandoned by Ukrainian forces.

He says (translated by The Interpreter) that while Ukrainian forces had been in the town “literally yesterday,” today they had vanished, along with the local authorities.

Brand new vehicles from the Kiev parade came in, but the soldiers pulled out overnight between Saturday and Sunday. Not everything started up, so they had to leave some of it behind, say the locals.

Barabanov reported that Ukrainian military vehicles littered the area:

Not far from Komsomolskoye, between the villages of Novozarevka, Voykovo and Kolosky, in a field by a copse, lay the remains of a battered Ukrainian column. It was bombed-out about a week ago. A tank, seven BTRs and several trucks. The villagers are energetically stripping the vehicles apart.

After the bombardment, two whole tanks remained – they were immediately taken off by DNR fighters, they say. Yesterday, they came back again and removed the gun from a BTR.

Barabanov encountered a Ukrainian doctor, his car stuck in the mud nearby, who claimed to him that yesterday alone, he had ferried 127 wounded and 17 dead in his own car. 

Barabanov’s reports were echoed by the BBC’s Will Vernon:

The loss of Komsomolskoye and Telmanovo leaves the road to Mariupol wide open and connects Russian forces in Novoazovsk with the main body of Russian or Russian-backed fighters in the centre of the Donetsk region.


Meanwhile, in Markino, to the north-east of Novoazovsk, just west of the Russian border, Petteri Tuohinen and Kalle Koponen of Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat report that they have seen modern T-72BV and BM tanks and Russian soldiers. 

On August 28, Joseph Dempsey of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, told the BBC that a tank visible in footage (which we geolocated in Sverdlovsk, Ukraine) was a T-72BM. This tank, he says, has not been exported by Russia and is in service with the Russian army.


The Finnish reporters said that some of the soldiers they encountered spoke with clear Russian accents.

Interpreter’s Michael Weiss Appears On Hromadske TV
The Interpreter’s editor-in-chief Michael Weiss has spoken to in their studio in Kiev. The topics: Russian propaganda, Putin’s motivations in Ukraine, and what sanctions should be passed which may be able to stop him. The interview starts at the 3:26:35 mark. Click here to open the video in a new window and jump straight to the time of the interview.

Russian-Backed Forces Rapidly Gaining Ground

The Interpreter’s James Miller reports from Kiev:

The general assessment of many analysts, including our own, is that the Russian offensive into eastern Ukraine has gained significant ground for the Russian-backed militants in the last two weeks: 

With the fall of Telmanovo to Russian-backed forces today, and the destruction of several Ukrainian naval ships,  the city of Mariupol is now in extreme danger of falling. The road between Lugansk and Donetsk appears to have been retaken, and Russian troops and supplies are streaming across the border.

Our assessment two weeks ago was that Ukraine was on the verge of military victory and the only thing propping up the “separatists” was a steady supply of Russian equipment and fighters. Ukraine is now losing ground in nearly every area of the ATO (anti-terror operation).

The sense from contacts inside the Ukrainian government confirms this. In fact, the situation may even be worse, and the scale is certainly much bigger, than the media is reporting. The consensus is that Ukraine cannot be conquered, but the pace of Ukrainian defeats is increasing, as are the death tolls.

The Interpreter in Kiev

Michael Weiss, editor-in-chief, and James Miller, managing editor of The Interpreter are in Kiev this week.

Miller spoke at a journalism school in Kiev today.

And he also appeared on Stop Faking News TV program.

Wall Street Journal on Ukrainian Forces Escape from Ilovaisk; Semyonchenko Reveals Himself on TV
As we reported, Ukrainian forces, mainly made up of volunteer battalions, first tried to wrest back the area around Ilovaisk from separatists starting August 19, but despite desperate pleas, failed to get back-ups. 
Then Putin urged the “Novorossiya militia” — the separatists he backed with an invasion of Russian forces — to create a “humanitarian corridor,” and Ukrainian forces struggled to leave. But soon they found themselves either ambushed and shot or taken into captivity. The total number of those captured, wounded or killed is not known, but it is likely to be in the hundreds.

In an article titled “Ukraine Suffers Harsh Defeat in Eastern Town,” James Marson and Alan Cullison of the Wall Street Journal report from the region on the Ukrainian forces’ harrowing retreat from Ilovaisk in recent days.

Mr. Beryoza said he reached an agreement with the Russians on Friday morning, and at 6 a.m. he and the other commanders ordered their troops to move out of Ilovaisk and formed a column of 60 vehicles. At the front of the column was a truck carrying dead and wounded, flying a white flag.

Soldiers in the column said they traveled for about an hour when surrounding Russian and rebel troops opened fire on them, first with mortars, then with machine guns. As vehicles caught fire and blew up, men in the column fled in every direction. Tracked vehicles ran over men on foot and one armored vehicle blew up, sending a head flying toward Taras Samchuk, a 28-year-old cook from the western town of Lutsk. About 100 were killed on the road, and more than that were wounded, survivors said.

Others fled in small groups towards Ukrainian lines or were captured. Mr. Beryoza said he was part of a group of 14 soldiers who crawled to safety and arrived in Dnipropetrovsk on Sunday. Mr. Samchuk said his vehicle swerved into a sunflower field and out of sight.

Residents of the small town of Kolmsomolske some dozen miles away said they saw dozens of fighters staggering through the town in small groups on Saturday morning, with bloodied bodies and dirty uniforms.

A few miles away that evening, a convoy of about 10 ambulances stood on the brow of a hill, checking if the road ahead was safe.

Stuffed with dozens of bedraggled soldiers stinking of dirt, sweat and flesh, they flew white flags from their windows and said they had come from Starobesheve, a town where the column had been headed.

Asked where they were going, a driver stared blankly into the distance in silence, his hands trembling on the wheel.

The full article can be read here.

Last night, the commanders who escaped Ilovaisk, including Semyon Semyonchenko, head of the Donbass battalion, appeared on Ukrainian television to describe their ordeal and to pledge to continue to fight their enemy.

Semyon Semyonchenko himself appeared in his trademark balaclava, but then dramatically removed it during the show, despite what he said was continued danger to his family, saying that it was time to take personal responsibility, and for the whole country to do so.


Like other commanders, he is a Russian speaker with roots in the southeast of Ukraine.

Semyonchenko also commented once again on the difference between dealing with separatists and regular Russian army (translation by The Interpreter):

Now we see who are fighting against us. These are two absolutely different groups. The first are those who have a completely devalued understanding of officers’ and soldiers’ honor. These are people who can calmly place their artillery near kindergartens. They are people who hide behind human shields. These are people who kidnap commanders, their families, their relatives. I think these people will be destroyed.
There’s a second category of people, whom our fighters encountered outside Ilovaisk. These are Russian military personnel, paratroopers who had expected to meet fascists. They met with people who are absolutely indistinguishable from themselves, officers who battle until the end, and from the stories of my fellow fighters, I understand that something in their heads has turned around. I think that it will turn out the opposite of what was expected from this war by Mr. Putin.
Body Of Missing Russian Journalist Andrei Stenin Reportedly Identified
Russian journalist Vasily Maximov tweets that the remains of Andrei Stenin, a photojournalist for Russia’s RIA Novosti, who has been missing since July, have been identified.
It seems that the remains of Andrei Stenin have been identified. RIA will make an announcement soon. Unfortunately, I have had no doubt of this fate for a while now.
Reports Suggest Ukraine Has Lost Control Of Telmanovo, North Of Mariupol

Reports this morning suggest that Russian, or Russian-backed forces are now in control of the town of Telmanovo.

Unverified twitter reports suggested combat had occurred in the area:

Terrorists have shelled a National Guard checkpoint near Telmanovo

100 Russian armoured vehicles are headed towards Telmanovo

Telmanovo – the punishers [separatist term for ATO forces] have been smashed. During the clear-out 1 BTR, 2 mortar detachments and 20 enemy soldiers were wiped out.

The separatist RusVesna (Russian Spring) news site claimed that the town had been “liberated by the army of Novorossiya.”

The report noted that the taking of the town was of strategic importance as it freed up an arterial route for moving forces south towards Mariupol.

On August 27, the ATO press centre announced that reports had been received of a large column of Russian military vehicles headed south from Starobeshevo (which had just fallen to Russian or Russian-backed forces) towards Telmanovo.

No further news of combat in this area came until August 30, when reports and photographs from the area suggested that Ukrainian forces had been engaged in fighting, and that Ukraine was in control of towns lying north of Telmanovo, along the highway to Starobeshevo.

The Ukrainian National Guard announced that the towns of Volnovakha and Komsomolskoye were under Ukrainian control and that defences were being strengthened. There was no indication as to whether Ukrainian forces had encountered or engaged the Russian column described on the 27th by the ATO press centre.

RusVesna meanwhile reported that Volnovakha was also now in separatist hands. This claim has been denied in Ukrainian media.


We are awaiting further details on this story but, if true, then Russian forces may soon be able to link up both the new ‘southern front’ near Novoazovsk, and the main front to the west of Donetsk. 

Telmanovo lies on a road that leads directly to Mariupol, as seen below:


All translations by The Interpreter.