Another Smoking Gun: Russia’s 76th VDV Division Fighting in Ukraine

BMD-2 bort number 275

BMD-2 bort number 275

Although there has been a mountain of evidence already that Russian Spetsnaz and other troops have been the vanguard of the “popular uprising” in eastern Ukraine from the start, and that Russia has been training personnel and sending in government mercenaries with heavy armaments including T-64B tanks, BMPs, BTRs, BM-21 MRLs, various tube artillery, SA-13 and SA-11 SAM systems (reported previously here based on peculiarities of vehicles noted heading to the Ukrainian border and the identical ones seen a day later in Ukrainian cities), and has been conducting artillery strikes on Ukrainian forces from just inside Russian territory, the most compelling evidence to date came to light just yesterday. A group of combat vehicles were engaged by Ukraine’s 24th Mech Brigade near Luhansk late yesterday, and during the fighting two BMD-2 airborne infantry fighting vehicles were damaged and captured as their crews fled.

Listing of 2nd Para Platoon soldiers and assigned personal weapons

Listing of 2nd Para Platoon soldiers and assigned personal weapons

One of the vehicles bore the side (bort) number 275. Contents of the vehicles included a lot of vehicle and crew documentation, credit and debit cards, club cards, a driver’s license, a passport, and more, showing that the vehicles and crew were from V/Ch 74268, which is the 234th Assault Storm (Parachute) Regiment of the 76th Assault Storm (VDV) Division, based in Pskov on the Estonian border (this is a unit near and dear to my heart which I know rather well, having spent a couple of days at it a number of years ago on an arms control inspection). Russian field rations produced earlier this year were also in the vehicles. Credit cards included some issued in Pskov, and a card for a club in Belgorod with the name of one soldier was among the haul, which is telling since parts of the 76th VDV division have been located near that city just across the border from Kharkiv off and on since March (that was previously reported on this site based in part on presence of several new BMD-4 vehicles that had unloaded with other BMDs from a train there, since that number of the rare BMD-4 is only found in the 234th VDV Regiment). Vehicle documentation showed the captured BMD-2s to be from the 2nd Platoon of the 1st Parachute Company. Other dirty and well worn booklets and documentation had listings of personnel in the platoons, their personal weapons assigned, with serial numbers, an inventory record for a 9M39 (SA-18 MANPADS missile), and the notebook of platoon commander Guards Senior Lieutenant Pavel Popov. Document entries for the personnel logs were from recent months while weapon logs and servicing booklets had entries going back over a decade and up to the 2014.

Packing list and inventory entries for two SA-18 MANPADS

Packing list and inventory entries for two SA-18 MANPADS

VKontakte page for 234th VDV Regt

The Russian Defence Ministry in a briefing ridiculed the evidence, stating that it is all a Ukrainian fake, and said that the Russian military has not used those document formats for five years, and that the documents in question would not be carried in a vehicle in any case. This is another outright lie. The documents in question are totally correct in format, and are still done that way as they have been done for decades. Those who contend such things can be fabricated on a computer know nothing of the documents in question, and the poor quality paper in these documents and notebooks would destroy any printer. As for being carried in a vehicle, they absolutely would be, particularly given that the platoon commander would have to maintain documents on his personnel and all assigned weapons. My many years of experience analyzing Soviet and Russian military documentation show these to be absolutely genuine.

List of platoon training themes up through 1 August 2014

List of platoon training themes up through 1 August 2014

One particular notebook details training themes in recent weeks, which again are consistent with the way things are done and recorded. Training included battalion on the march, in the attack, and most recently on 1 August was training on rail transport rules. This would suggest that these elements of the 234th, which had been previously on the Ukrainian border for months but had returned for a time to Pskov during Putin’s trumpeted “withdrawal,” came back to the border region in early August. Prior to a move units would receive such a block of training.

Driver's license from one BMD soldier

Driver’s license from one BMD soldier

Passport from one BMD soldier

Passport from one BMD soldier

The bort number on BMD 275 (whose number indicated it is from the second platoon, which would typically include vehicles ending in 4, 5, and 6) had obviously been hastily and crudely painted out to hide the Russian origin, as has been done with vehicles “donated” to the Russian fighters in the east.

St Lt Popov's VK page

St Lt Popov’s VK page

Information I have not seen the primary source for, so cannot vouch for personally, indicates that the wife of one officer from the 234th had written on social media that their husbands had said they were going on an exercise into Ukraine, but they had heard nothing from them for days and were crying at home.

One of many photos Sr Lt Popov posted on VK of his platoon in Kaliningrad taking part in ZAPAD-13 in Sep 2013

One of many photos Sr Lt Popov posted on VK of his platoon in Kaliningrad taking part in ZAPAD-13 in Sep 2013

The most damning evidence is that the names in the documentation can be easily checked against social media accounts—primarily the Russian VKontakte one—where a number of the same soldiers are seen to really be based in the 234th VDV Regiment. Some have entries going back several years, showing that these were not some new accounts made up as part of an elaborate Ukrainian propaganda hoax (unless they already thought this all out a few years ago). Senior Lieutenant Popov’s account is especially interesting, with a lot of photos on it showing his platoon on maneuvers while they were in Kaliningrad Oblast in September 2013 while participating in ZAPAD-2013 (which basically rehearsed an invasion of the Baltic countries). The 234th did in fact participate in that exercise in Kaliningrad.

Putin decree awarding Order of Suvorov to the 76th VDV Division 18 August for successful combat actions

Putin decree awarding Order of Suvorov to the 76th VDV Division 18 August for successful combat actions

One last note: on the Kremlin website a decree from Putin was issued on 18 August awarding the 76th VDV Division the Order of Suvorov (a fairly significant award) for “successfully carrying out combat assignments of the command and display of courage and heroism by its personnel.” (Perhaps it will now be revoked given that some of those personnel ran away and allowed their vehicles to be captured by Ukrainian “Banderovtsy.”)

Platoon Commander's notebook

Platoon Commander’s notebook

As if it was not clear before given the wealth of evidence, Russia is actively involved in fighting a war against Ukraine on Ukrainian territory—not just arming some local proxies.

 

Article Repost: Russia Has Already Invaded Ukraine

We don’t usually repost entire articles, but this one from The World Post (of the Huffington Post) on 18 August is right on. Strobe Talbott, former Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton years, just aced and interview about Russian activities in Ukraine. Talbott has obviously drastically changed his assessments of the nature of at least Putonian Russia. He used to be a very liberal writer for Time, but is an impeccable Russian speaker, being the one who translated Khrushchev’s memoirs into English for publication. That said, even during his State Dept tenure in the 90s he was often extremely liberal and gave Russia every benefit of the doubt, no matter what it seemed to do. It cannot be said that he is, in any way, an enemy of Russia or the Russian people.

Russia Has Already Invaded Ukraine: Strobe Talbott

However, now he has come to the very realistic conclusion that Russia is not only actively waging war in Ukraine, but that its goals extend far beyond that conflict, which is totally of its making. A notable quote on the situation is, “It is an invasion that is already well in place. It is detrimental to managing the situation to play along with the transparent falsehood that the Russians are putting out that they have not invaded Ukraine.”

Naturally Talbott was attacked in comments by some from the obvious Russian troll brigades. Clear from their use of all the right phrases and buzz words and sticking to the party line talking points, such as equating him to State Dept spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who has become in Russia the symbol of “evil America” out to get poor Russia. Demonized is more the correct term as they use some very crude and sick portrayals of her. Russians all know her from the propaganda, though the average Brit or American would have no clue who she even is.

 

Putin: Looks Like We Got Ourselves a (Military) “Humanitarian” Convoy

Convoy on the move

Convoy on the move

On 12 August, a large (roughly 280 truck) Russian aid convoy left from near Moscow enroute to eastern Ukraine. Unspecified food and supplies on the trucks were allegedly donated by Moscow area residents, which is rather doubtful since many of them (at least outside the capital) are themselves in need of aid, particularly after Putin has made Russia a pariah and sanctions have been hit by Russian countersanctions that forbid the import of just about anything foreign into Russia, already resulting in empty shelves and tripling of some food prices). But I digress.

The convoy set off from the installation of the 2nd Guards Motorized Rifle Division (Tamanskaya Divisiya), one of in Naro-Fominsk, where some troops from the division had posted pictures of it forming up before their VK social media accounts were deleted, and video was taken of the huge truck formation by a passing vehicle as it was still in the motor pool. Most of the mainly Kamaz trailer trucks were military trucks hastily painted white, with most having their licence plates removed and bearing no markings. A few UAZ-452 and Gazele vehicles had red crosses and a few trucks were noted flying the flag of the Red Cross. A few were in markings of the Ministry of Emergency Situations (MChS), though most were just repainted military trucks. Some were painted with the pro-Russian “separatist” “Kolorado” ribbon, which indicates there is no impartiality on the part of the organizers (which after all is the Russian government.

Naro-Fominsk video of convoy preps and CLAM SHELL

New Russian "Afrika Korps" Uniform

New Russian “Afrika Korps” Uniform

Interestingly at the end of the rows of trucks, which were being prepared to be led by Russian military VAI (Military Automotive Inspectorate) cars, there was a truck with a 76N6 CLAM SHELL radar on telescoping mast, which is used with S-300 air defence missile variants (SA-10 and SA-20), though, it is not clear whether this “aid” was joining the convoy.

Some with Red Cross flags

Some with Red Cross flags

The people on the convoy are all dressed in tan t-shirts and shorts (similar to the Afrika Korps uniform), and all were fit, clearly showing that those on the trip are not Russian aid workers or even MChS, who are often not prime physical specimens. Indeed, one soldier from the Tamanskaya Division posted a picture of himself in the shorts in front of some of the trucks before his VK account was also removed.

FLAP LID SA-10/20 radar in Naro-Fominsk with convoy

FLAP LID SA-10/20 radar in Naro-Fominsk with convoy

It set off this morning and by evening was reportedly near Voronezh, not too far from the Ukrainian border.

Convoy moving, with large items in one

Convoy moving, with large items in one

Of note, Ukraine has agreed in principle to allowing in humanitarian aid, but has not authorized Russia to do so. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) noted on 11 August that it was talking with Ukraine and Russia about aid but said it will deliver any aid, and needs information from Russia as to what it is bringing, and needs solid security guarantees since its people work without armed escorts. Russia has provided no information, and indeed in a 12 August press release the ICRC said it had no information about the 280 vehicle convoy and had nothing to do with it. The Russian Red Cross director said on 12 August that there were no Russian Red Cross people involved with the operation.

ICRC on need for it to deliver aid

Some trucks in Kolorado Ribbon livery

Some trucks in Kolorado Ribbon livery

Given that there are tens of thousands of Russian troops poised now only a few kilometers from the Ukrainian border, the convoy could conceivably pick up “escort” when it arrives to cross into Ukraine. Most territory from the border to Luhansk or Donetsk is now Ukrainian controlled, and Ukraine says it will not let an unauthorized convoy enter.

Some of the guys preparing the convoy in Naro-Fominsk posing on VK page

Some of the guys preparing the convoy in Naro-Fominsk posing on VK page

What is Putin’s game here? Could be any number of bad answers, though sending in pure humanitarian aid, especially when in military trucks operated by military personnel is not a good sign. Sure, some trucks were opened for cameras showing some pallets of juice and baby milk (shades of Saddam 1990), though what is further up in the trucks, or in the hundreds not shown, is a mystery. Possibly more supplies for the Girkin and other fighters, or weapons for the 1200 military “humanitarian” drivers. Or the whole exercise would be meant to provoke the Ukrainians into using force to an illegal (under any understanding of international law) border crossing, which would give Putin the pretext to use his forces near the border to intervene. Bad situation in all cases. But his Spetsnaz and mercenaries in eastern Ukraine are on the ropes and it was always assumed he would use military force to prevent losing his latest imperial ambition.

 

Fuselage Damage Indicates SA-11 Fired from Torez

Though a lot of the fuselage pieces from Malaysian flight 17 shot down over eastern Ukraine have been cut up and removed by the Russians controlling the site, enough people were able to access the site before international investigators were allowed in, and were able to take sufficient photos of the wreckage to be able to ascertain certain objective facts about the shootdown.

Naturally Russia continues putting out ever more versions of the shootdown to blame anybody but themselves, saying it was caused by an air-to-air missile fired by a mystery Ukrainian fighter (notably by an Su-25 ground attack aircraft that cannot get anywhere near the altitude of the 777), or by various Ukrainian SA-11 TELARS that allegedly were in Ukrainian-held areas near Donetsk (even though there are no indication s any Ukrainian SA-11s were thee, much less active on 17 July), or any of other versions. They insist the Russian-operated SA-11 BUK TELAR seen, photographed, and videoed in Torez (a fully Russian-controlled area about 15 km to the southeast of the town of Hrabovo where the wreckage landed), which was noted as launching from there based on contrail photos, was confirmed by US intelligence as having been the location from which an SA-11 was fired at the time of the shootdown, and which was confirmed by COL Girkin in his VK page boast right after the event (when he thought it was a Ukrainian An-26), was something that was a US or Ukrainian fabrication.

MH17 left cockpit fuselage panel showing shrapnel damage from within

MH17 left cockpit fuselage panel showing shrapnel damage from within

But the fuselage clearly indicates that the explosion that brought down MH17 was not an air-to-air missile, which would have been heat-seeking so would have gone for one of the wing-mounted engines. Furthermore, damage shows that the explosion was to the front right side of the aircraft, at about it’s 2 o’clock position. This is apparent because the left side cockpit fuselage panel shows extensive shrapnel damage (probably well over 50 holes) coming from inside the cockpit. This, of course, led some to suggest the plane was brought down by a bomb inside it. Not at all. An SA-11 warhead detonates using a proximity fuze when the missile is about 50 meters from the target, with the 70 KG of high explosive throwing thousands of shrapnel fragments and other pieces of the missile casing at extremely high speed at the target–shotgun-like. The goal is to shower the target with high-speed metal fragments to destroy critical components. The fragments are obviously flying at speeds that allow them to easily enter the right side of the aircraft and exit the left. Indeed, lots of fuselage panels from the right side show shrapnel entering from the outside, with rear panels showing lesser damage.

MH17 panel showing shrapnel having entered from outside

MH17 panel showing shrapnel having entered from outside

Why is this important? Because MH17 was flying basically on a course to the east, with the impact having been to the west of the impact site at Hrabovo. Torez, where the SA-11 was seen before the shootdown is about 15 KM southeast of those points. The missile, being radar-guided, goes straight for the target and detonates shortly before impact. A launch from Torez would perfectly put the incoming missile just to the right front of the 777. The shrapnel blast would have devastated the cockpit, with the blast entering the right and exiting the left side, which was clearly shown by the fuselage panels. The SA-11 WAS launched from Russian-controlled Torez, which is one reason the Russian fighters controlling the site spent days trying to remove evidence.

MH17—Russians Seriously Need some Version Control

Some of the MH17 shrapnel-riddled fuselage

Some of the MH17 shrapnel-riddled fuselage

OK, how many versions of the “it wasn’t us” MH17 shootdown story will the Russian propaganda machine churn out? There are probably over 10 of them now, and all are simply lies. It would seem that if there was any evidence the Russians had that would show someone other than they themselves were behind it, they would stick to a single story. This is, of course, not a country with a free media that puts out whatever it wants, but one where all state media (like ORT, Rossiya, NTV, RIA-Novosti, RT, etc) are all putting out state propaganda and most of these are under the control of Dmirty Kiselev, Putin’s propaganda ‘minister.” Russia’s propaganda line is naturally also being put out by the Foreign Ministry (including its henchman in New York, Ambassador Vitaliy Churkin) and the Ministry of Defense, which had a huge press conference earlier this week. But all versions are different–many very different, and many mutually exclusive–and contain nothing factual. But maybe they want it this way, since idiots around the world, and the bulk of the Russian populace, will eat up any garbage served to them and will remember in the back of their minds days or weeks later that “I heard something like this on the news.” Like all Russian propaganda, there are no facts, the information is all contradictory, but those who do not check basic facts lap it up. Their main line is simply that the Ukrainians and US are lying, yet they provide no basis for this or their own facts.

Some of the main versions to date:

Zombie flight. Put out by COL Girkin (Strelkov) based on info from his guys on the scene. Victim’s already dead before the flight and bodies drained of blood. Malaysian Airlines and its pilots obviously working with CIA and Ukrainian government and committed suicide by flying into an area where they knew they would be shot down by either an air defense missile, or Su-27 fighters, or Su-25 ground attack airplanes, or something. This is the sickest version and a slap in the face of the victims and their families–many of whom saw their loved ones off at Schipol Airport and know they were quite alive.

COL Strelkov on dead passenger flight

Russian MOD version. The main briefing given by the Russian Ministry of Defense earlier this week, on 21 July, concentrated on the “fact” that a Ukrainian Su-25 FROGFOOT shot it down. This would be an odd choice for airframe, since the Su-25 only has a service ceiling is only 7,000 meters—without weapons—vice 10,000 meters where the Malaysian Airlines plane was flying. The Su-25 is a “shturmovik”—a ground attack (close air support) aircraft meant to attack things on the ground. It is not a fighter plane or interceptor, which is what would be used to shoot down another plane. Does the Russian MOD, which put this out in a briefing, really not know anything about the capabilities of its different types of planes, or does it just count on the Russian people and a certain percentage of foreigners being plain stupid and unwilling to check facts? Interestingly, the Chief of Staff of the Russian Air Force, General-Lieutenant Igor Makushev, is the one who made some of these claims. The briefers noted that the Su-25 can fly “for short periods” up to 10,000 meters, which is something it cannot even do with no stores hanging from its wings. They also either were trying to add another element quietly, by putting a picture of a USAF EF-111 Raven electronic countermeasures aircraft on their briefing graphics where they marked Su-25. Maybe suggesting that the US had a role in it somehow, though the last EF-111 was laid to rest from service in 1998. Maybe the Russian Air Force just did not happen to have a graphic of an Su-25—one of their own planes—since they also showed MH17 with a picture of a Boeing 707, vice the twin engine 777. Pure lies as usual.

Russian MOD photo briefing handouts 21 July

Russian MOD photo briefing handouts 21 July

Interestingly, in their briefing, they showed radar tracks of MH17 and a couple of other airliners flying in the same general area of Ukraine, but no tracks of other (alleged fighter) aircraft were seen, though at the time when the flight was shot down, and debris gave multiple radar returns, the briefers focused on the small rotating circle of what was left of the flight, noting that the turns were so tight it could only have been a military aircraft. They just blew the plane out of the sky and apparently the main portion of it was in a very tight and presumably uncontrollable spin, yet they did not choose to note this fact, instead claiming it was a Ukrainian Su-25! It is notable that once the broken up 777 vanished from the radar, the phantom Su-25 that supposedly shot it down was nowhere to be seen. Not only must it have been an incredible modification for the altitude it allegedly operated at, but it must have been stealth as well.

During their briefing, they kept showing satellite reconnaissance photos they took of what they say were Ukrainian SA-11 vehicles near the shootdown site. This is interesting in that the photos they showed seem as fake as the doctored ones they showed back a few months ago about allegedly large groupings of Ukrainian vehicles in farms near Slovyansk ready to assault the city (which never happened of course). Those photos had been doctored, as large numbers of armored vehicles on them displayed no marks from the vehicle tracks (so they must have been dropped there by magic), even as cars there clearly made tire tracks. Fake then and fake now. This time they showed pictures taken multiple times per day. This is pretty good for a country that has few imagery satellites on orbit and most of those still are film return ones vice electro-optical. Given that a satellite might be in a position to shoot this site once a day, and they displayed multiple images (all cloud free) on single days, this is clearly bogus. I have lots of personal experience with US systems, and can attest to the fact that getting this kind of coverage, particularly with Russia’s systems, is fantasy. As for the Russian MOD demanding to see the US photos that showed the Russian’s fired the missile, they know damn well that this is based on infrared launch detection coverage, which means all you will get is a graph that means nothing to most anyone. Naturally they will say it is fake anyhow, so what’s the use. It is all quite real though.

SA-11 BUK in Torez 17 July on lowboy truck

SA-11 BUK in Torez 17 July on lowboy truck

Variation of the Su-25 fable. There have been attempts to show that the Su-25 vanished because it in turn was shot down by some meant (unspecified). There are some who think that the Russians, since they have been removing wreckage from the crash site, might also salt some pieces of some of the Su-25s they have shot down to give credence to this story, though it would be laughable that two planes falling from 33,000 feet would crash in the same place.

RT and the elusive Spanish air traffic controller. Since just after the shootdown, a version has been promulgated by the Russians, mainly through their RT worldwide propaganda outlet posing as a legitimate news service, and then as usual put out again and again by Kremlin trolls and blogs/websites catering to Western light-minded conspiracy theorists with an anti-Western bent. RT’s roving correspondent, Pepe Escobar, who is nothing but a Russian cheerleader who disparages everything else, highlighted the story of a shadowy alleged Spanish air traffic controller working in Kyiv. This Carlos allegedly tweeted right after the shootdown (though this is nothing definite since his account has been closed—if it ever was) that it was a case of a couple of Ukrainian fighters trailing the 777, though they did not shoot it down—a ground missile did. Now, how he knew this, since the Russian MOD radar picture shown on 21 July did not indicate any other aircraft on that track, is a mystery. Actually not a mystery, since it is all fake, along with this Carlos. He supposedly had received death threats along with his family in May and an arrest warrant was issued for him, for whatever reason, and returned to Spain, but then showed up in the control tower again just before the shootdoawn on 17 July. For whatever reason, he was allowed back in there. Not only this, but other foreign air traffic controllers, even though Ukrainian law requires all ATC personnel to be Ukrainians. Allegedly, according to his phantom tweets, fight after the shootdown, where they saw two Ukrainian military planes shadowing the 777, the Ukrainian military told him that it had been shot down by them, but they were all relieved of duty. He allegedly continued tweeting like crazy. Some of his alleged tweets on 17 July:

“The B777 was escorted by 2 Ukrainian fighter jets minutes before disappearing from radar (17.48pm)”

“If the Kiev authorities want to admit the truth 2 fighter jets were flying very close a few minutes before the incident but did not shoot down the airliner (17.54)”

“As soon as the Malaysia Airlines B777 disappeared the Kiev military authority informed us of the shooting down. How did they know? (18.00)”

“Everything has been recorded on radar. For those that don’t believe it, it was taken down by Kiev; we know that here (in traffic control) and the military air traffic control know it too (19.14)”

“The Ministry of the Interior did know that there were fighter aircraft in the area, but the Ministry of Defense didn’t. (19.15)”

“The military confirm that it was Ukraine, but it is not known where the order came from. (19.31)”

This is obvious nonsense on so many levels, not least because the Interior Ministry does not control any air defense assets. No radar tracks showed accompanying fighters during the Russian MOD presentation, foreigners cannot be air traffic controllers in Ukraine, and how is it that this Carlos have gotten back into the tower when he was supposedly under an arrest warrant and threats.

RT propaganda piece on shootdown

Investigative website debunks Spanish ATC idea

Vesti newscast: two versions in less than one hour. Actually last Sunday night there was no weekly Dmitry Kiselev propaganda show—his usual Vesti Nedeli, but rather, one of his assistants got to take the heat by hosting a regular extended version of the Vesti “news” show, all dedicated as usual to Ukraine bashing. This time focused mainly on the airline. It spent a considerable amount of time building up the story that the Ukrainians actually had a couple of SA-11 BUK launchers in the area of Donetsk—one to the north and another to the east, to insinuate that the Ukrainians shot it down. They interviewed one of the chief constructors of the BUK who confirmed that the “separatists” could not have used such equipment, since it takes many months to train crew and a commander requires five years to become proficient. Our point exactly to show that this was not “Joe-6-Pack” locals who found one, but a professional Russian military crew, though their contention was that it was a Ukrainian military crew. But they provided no proof of course—just SA-11 silhouettes put over a map. But just after this, the same show interviewed some Russian aviation experts, including the former commander of the Russian Air Force, who all agreed that based on some of the damage seen on some of the fuselage panels in pictures, this could not have been from an SA-11, but was consistent with an air-to-air missile. They mentioned, again with no proof, that military planes had been with the airliner and shot it down. So, after building the case for a Ukrainian SA-11 for over 20 minutes, they totally contradicted themselves and said it was an air-to-air shootdown.

Putin the target of the evil Ukrainians. This version was actually quickly put out by RT within hours of the shootdown, with it quoting Interfax which in turn quoted an anonymous source, who said Putin’s plane, returning from South America, was possibly confused with the Malaysian flight, and the latter was shot down by the Ukrainians instead. They nots both were in the Warsaw air traffic control zone. Indeed they were, but nearly an hour apart, and Putin’s flew on over Belarus to Russia instead of Ukrainian airspace where his plane is probably not welcome.

First version–Putin’s plane as target

“Vostok Battalion” Commander says Russian SA-11 did it. Aleksandr Khodakovsky, commander of a group of Russian government mercenaries and a few locals who call themselves the Vostok Battalion (confused often with a mainly Chechen battalion of the same name that featured prominently in the 2008 Georgia war, which has also been involved in its new form in eastern Ukraine), said in a Reuters interview on 23 July that he knew a BUK had come down from Luhansk to the Snizhne area that day and fired, and then was hastily withdrawn once it became clear what had happened. He went on to say that it was all Ukraine’s fault for having planes flying against targets in the area. However, ground attack planes, which fly very low, cannot be confused with a high flying airliner, and the SA-11 is intended for use against medium-to-high-altitude targets, and would have little utility against an Su-25 flying at only a few hundred meters. In any case, it was nice of his to have confirmed there was a Russian SA-11 there that did down the 777. He later tried to say he never said anything of the sort, though the entire interview was recorded.

Reuters interview of East Bn commander admitting Russian SA-11 shot 777

Churkin spinning. Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vitaliy Churkin, was doing his usual bit, which has probably kept him employed there for so many years. On 22 July, as always, he just denied everything. According to him, the video of the SA-11 returning to Russia was actually made on Kyiv-controlled territory (without any further information), and the recordings of Russians and pro-Russian fighters talking about the accidental shootdown were fake (again, with no elaboration or proof). Russian way is to just deny everything despite evidence slapping you in the face.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/ukraine/2014/ukraine-140722-rianovosti11.htm

Ukraine violating ICAO rules. Russia’s RIA-Novosti is just now saying as of 24 July that Ukraine is at fault for not fulfilling requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization by having an ongoing war and not coordinating safe passage for a flight overflying it. This is pure garbage, since there are about 300 airlines flying over that area daily (three at once when MH17 was shot down), and the flight had filed the appropriate flight plans and was in the process of being handed off from Ukrainian to Russian air traffic controllers. Some point out that for some reason the 777 was flying hundreds of kilometers north of where it normally did, though no evidence of this has been provided, and even if so, air traffic control allocates flight levels and tracks to planes that are not always the same places they fly on a particular day. On this note, the Russian-proposed theories put out by their Active Measures minions, saying that Ukraine has been escorting all airliners with fighters, is too stupid for words. The cash-strapped Ukrainian military, which is in a war for the country’s existence, is not going to waste valuable pilot time, fuel, and wear on the aircraft by escorting the hundreds of airliners in its airspace every day. No country does that. None can do that. And it provided no benefit whatsoever.

RIA-Novosti says Ukraine disregarded responsibilities

As this gets more ridiculous, Russian propaganda network RT has lost another reporter, as London-based Sara Firth resigned, saying this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. She said they were producing misinformation on it with alleged eyewitness accounts and bogus analysis, and found it impossible to defend it anymore. She noted there was a main RT rule: Russia is right and Ukraine is always wrong. Facts irrelevant.

RT London correspondent resigns over MH17 coverage

What is clear is that the Russians on the scene have been doing their best to cover up certain evidence. For days, OSCE teams (which Russia has so publicly invited to continue their work in eastern Ukraine, even as several teams have been held hostage by the Russians there) were turned back by armed thugs, and international investigators were finally allowed initially only limited access for a short time. Reports are that about 30 bodies were brought to the morgue in Donetsk, as some were missing from the trains where they were finally loaded. Speculation is that these were the ones with shrapnel wounds that would show it was from an SA-11 warhead, but there is no hard evidence of the whereabouts of the missing bodies. Then there is the gross manipulation of the crash scene, which goes against all rules of air crash investigations, which call for the pieces, as much as possible, to be left in their positions. Not only have they been cut up, but large pieces have been carried away at night to unknown locations. These, again, are probably the parts that had the most significant shrapnel damage and would give ready clues about the system employed. Indeed, even the pieces of the warhead, which already would give indications of the weapon employed, will also have residue of the explosive, which would point to a specific weapon.

Russia is putting out so many versions likely to plant multiple seeds of doubt about the shootdown. To any thinking person, however, what it actually does is show their guilt, since it shows they are clearly grasping at straws to show it was anybody but them, despite the overwhelming evidence from radar tracks, radar illuminations, infrared detection from satellites, all correlating with the photos and videos of an SA-11 TELAR in Torez in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine prior to and after the shootdown, that it was indeed a Russian-controlled SA-11 TELAR that fired the shot. Who precisely was crewing it is not known, though it had to have been a crew of well-trained professionals, given the complexity of the system.

US Space Command on evidence of Russian BUK firing

 

Russia Puts out Many Conflicting Versions of Airline Shootdown—All of them Fantasy

Russian MOD Briefing 21 July on MH17 shootdown--all fantasy in a Dr Strangelove setting

Russian MOD Briefing 21 July on MH17 shootdown–all fantasy in a Dr Strangelove setting

Which Russian lie do you choose to believe? It seems the Kremlin is in such a spin on its accidental shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, that it has chosen the shotgun propaganda approach, putting out numerous totally different versions of how others shot it down. In the usual Russian terminology, “there is another version that has a right to exist…” And all of them are pure lies. Not just lies, but ones that insult the memory of those people that it murdered late last week.

Some of the recent versions:

Actually Sunday night there was no weekly Dmitry Kiselev propaganda show—his usual Vesti Nedeli, but rather, one of his assistants got to take the heat by hosting a regular extended version of the Vesti “news” show, all dedicated as usual to Ukraine bashing. This time focused mainly on the airline. It spent a considerable amount of time building up the story that the Ukrainians actually had a couple of SA-11 BUK launchers in the area of Donetsk—one to the north and another to the east (though Kiselev’s other enterprise, RT, claimed there were 37 in the area). This to insinuate, as they did from the beginning, that the Ukrainians shot it down. They went to interview one of the chief constructors of the BUK who confirmed that the “separatists” could not have used such equipment, since it takes many months to train crew and a commander requires five years to become proficient. Out point exactly to show that this was not “Joe-6-Pack” locals who found one, but a professional Russian military crew, though their contention was that it was a Ukrainian military crew. No proof of course—just SA-11 outlines put over a map.

However, just after this, the same show interviewed some Russian aviation experts, including the former commander of the Russian Air Force, who all agreed that based on some of the damage seen on some of the fuselage panels in pictures, this could not have been from an SA-11, but was consistent with an air-to-air missile. They mentioned, again with no proof, that military planes had been with the airliner and shot it down. So, after building the case for a Ukrainian SA-11 for over 20 minutes, they decided to contradict that story by saying it was shot by an aircraft. Stupid crude Russian propaganda at its best.

The other story that has been mentioned for a few days and now has officially seen the light of day in a Russian Ministry of Defense briefing today, is that a Ukrainian Su-25 FROGFOOT shot it down. This would be an odd choice for airframe, since the Su-25 only has a service ceiling is only 7,000 meters—without weapons—vice 10,000 meters where the Malaysian Airlines plane was flying. The Su-25 is a “shturmovik”—a ground attack (close air support) aircraft meant to attack things on the ground. It is not a fighter plane or interceptor, which is what would be used to shoot down another plane. Does the Russian MOD, which put this out in a briefing, really not know anything about the capabilities of its different types of planes, or does it just count on the Russian people and a certain percentage of foreigners being plain stupid and unwilling to check facts? (Not in line with RT’s ridiculously laughable motto, “Question more.”) Interestingly, the Chief of Staff of the Russian Air Force, General-Lieutenant Igor Makushev, is the one who made some of these claims. The briefers noted that the Su-25 can fly “for short periods” up to 10,000 meters, which is something it cannot even do with no stores hanging from its wings. They also either were trying to add another element quietly, by putting a picture of a USAF EF-111 Raven electronic countermeasures aircraft on their briefing graphics where they marked Su-25. Maybe suggesting that the US had a role in it somehow, though the last EF-111 was laid to rest from service in 1998. Maybe the Russian Air Force just did not happen to have a graphic of an Su-25—one of their own planes—since they also showed MH17 with a picture of a Boeing 707, vice the twin engined 777. Pure lies as usual.

Russian MOD graphic showing MH17 as a 707 and Ukrainian Su-25 as a long-retired USAF EF-111 Raven

Russian MOD graphic showing MH17 as a 707 and Ukrainian Su-25 as a long-retired USAF EF-111 Raven

Russian MOD website on MH17 Briefing

Interestingly, in their briefing, they showed radar tracks of Mh17 and a couple of other airliners flying in the same general area of Ukraine, but no tracks of other (alleged fighter) aircraft were seen, though at the time when the flight was shot down, and debris gave multiple radar returns, the briefers focused on the small rotating circle of what was left of the flight, noting that the turns were so tight it could only have been a military aircraft. They just blew the plane out of the sky and apparently the main portion of it was in a very tight and presumably uncontrollable spin, yet they did not choose to not this fact, instead claiming it was a Ukrainian Su-25!

Of course this pales in significance with COL Girkin’s (Strelkov’s) bizarre revelations earlier in the weekend when he said that according to some of his people at the impact site, the victims on the plane had already been dead when it was flying, and the bodies had been drained of blood. So, apparently all the families of the victims are mistaken in believing their loved ones were alive hours earlier when they saw them off at the airport, that the selfies made on the plane and of the plane itself as passengers were boarding it were all fake, and that now apparently Malaysian Airlines, Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, and the suicidal pilots themselves were all working with the CIA or whomever to pull off this grand scheme to frame and shame Russia. This is the ultimate insult to the victims’ families, but is the kind of pure swill the Russian government tells the world with a straight face.

AP article on Girkin Dead Pasengers Claim

Yet another version is that there were two Ukrainian Su-27 FLANKER fighter planes shadowing the 777 and they shot it—maybe—or maybe not. This is because a further version, put out by Business Insider in an article by Aviationist’s David Cenciotti (who normally does rather balanced work), though in this piece he depended on a supposedly good source, Iranian defense expert Babak Taghvaee who said the plane had been either tailed by two Ukrainian Su-27s, or that they were performing a Combat Air Patrol in the area, and that the “separatists” with their SA-11 decided to bag a high-value trophy, but instead hit the 777 instead of one of the Su-27s. The Iranian expert said that during the 2012 UEFA Cup and the Sochi Olympics, Ukrainian fighters escorted all airliners and even one hijacked plane (which there seems to be no record of). This is all nonsense, as the Ukrainian military certainly did not have the resources to escort (for whatever reason) all the airlines flying daily over its territory. And certainly since Russia had already started its actions in Crimea, it would seem the Ukrainians would have had no interest in trying to support Putin’s 1936 Olympics. It seems, though, that this Taghvaee is either planting a disinformation story in true Active Measures style (to suggest that the Ukrainians did follow the 777, though did not shoot it down), or just way off base. A review of his other work shows a lot dedicated to UFOs snooping at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant in 2012, which managed to destroy some investigating Iranian F-14s.

Irainai Military “Expert” on Ukrainian Su-27s Following all Airliners

In any case, Russia has been proliferating myriad versions of what supposedly happened on 17 July—everything except what really did happen and has been confirmed by phone intercepts, many videos of a BUK TELAR in Torez a few hours before the shootdown, same TELAR on the same HET heading out of there and back toward Russia early the next day (minus one and possibly two missiles), photos and videos of an SA-11 contrail near Torez that day, Girkin boasting just afterwards of having shot down another An-26 (though removing the posting after finding out it was an airliner), and referenced technical intelligence of the missile having been launched from that area (which is all Russian-controlled). Certainly the Russian PR machine will come out with more inventive and far-fetched lies. Geez, their Air Force cannot even get basic aviation facts (about their own equipment) right.

 

Russia’s Sick Games Over Airliner it Shot Down

The international response team from the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation still has not been able to access the MH17 impact site in eastern Ukraine, as the local “DNR government” had promised, and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission for Ukraine was only able to visit the outer areas of the impact site, and were otherwise kept away by the Russian fighters, who in this case seem to be mainly local recruits of marginal intellect. OSCE report noted that some of them seemed clearly intoxicated and rude, though at least the OSCE team was not taken hostage as several have been. Reports that bodies are not being properly collected and cared for (and in over 30 degree heat), and fighters are going through belongings and taking things like credit cards.

Sick Russian separatist waving around toy of child his people murdered. May be one of those OSCE team said seemed intoxicated. Just who you need working a crash scene.

Sick Russian separatist waving around toy of child his people murdered. May be one of those OSCE team said seemed intoxicated. Just who you need working a crash scene.

OSCE Monitoring Mission Report for 18 July

Also that the fighters are going through the wreckage trying to remove evidence-probably fragments of the missile which could show what kind it was. Good luck with that, since there will be thousands of missile fragments, including many with serial numbers which indicate the year of manufacture. Any missile produced after 1991 would definitely rule out Ukraine as the shooter, though it has in any case been clearly established that the missile was fired from a sole SA-11 BUK TELAR that had been brought into the Snizhne-Torez area on a while low-boy truck on the 16th (an area totally under Russian control), and the same TELAR minus two missiles departed that area the next day on the same truck headed toward the Russian border.

SA-11 BUK TELAR leaving toward Russia 18 July on same truck it arrived on a day earlier, but minus two missiles now.

SA-11 BUK TELAR leaving toward Russia 18 July on same truck it arrived on a day earlier, but minus two missiles now.

SA-11 TELAR leaving toward Russia on 18 July on same truck it arrived on day earlier

The BUK is an extremely complex system to operate, particularly when a single TELAR (without control vehicles or early warning radars) does an engagement by itself, but it can be done by an experienced crew going up against a non-maneuvering target such as this airliner. Launch contrails on videos as well as other information indicates it was fired from that location. It was the Russians, though they are trying to remove as much evidence before investigators get there. Reports that the two black boxes have been removed and brought to Russia are still unconfirmed, but if true would be yet another Russian flagrant violation of international law, since the UN ICAO (which Russia is a signatory to) stipulates that the boxes will be kept and exploited in the country where the crash occurred. Putin screwed up Friday morning by stating that the shootdown was the responsibility of Ukraine because it occurred above its territory. Nice admission, since Putin has been denying for months that there is any such thing  as Ukraine and never was historically, and his Kiselevian/RT propaganda apparatus has been insisting the area is called Novorossiya, or the Donetsk People’s Republic, but was not Ukraine. Apparently when Putin’s minions screwed up, not the area once again is Ukraine. But if the boxes have indeed been moved to Russia, this is a grave violation of international law, though just one in a string of violations by Moscow.

SA-11 firing

SA-11 firing

The Netherlands, which had the largest number of people on the plane, has decried the way investigators are being kept away and condemned the reported looting and the way they are being disrespectful toward the bodies. By far, the largest number of victims, are from that country, which is also the “evil EU” country where Putin’s daughter enjoys living.

Maidan 18 July putin no to MH17

Shades of KAL-007: Russia Downs Malaysian Airliner over Eastern Ukraine

Chechen at the impact site

Possibly a Chechen at the impact site

If the world does not jump into action now and seriously condemn Moscow, then it is in a truly hopeless state. Late this afternoon a Russian air defense missile system shot down a Malaysian Airlines Boeing-777 (flight MH17) flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur as it was over the easternmost area of Ukraine. It crashed in fields near the village of Grabovo, about 15 kilometers northwest of Snizhne, areas still in the hands of Russians. All 295 people on the flight were killed in the ensuing crash.

SA-11 BUK contrail at Torez near Snizhne

SA-11 BUK contrail at Torez near Snizhne

Ukraine says it was shot down either from Russian territory or by Russians operating in eastern Ukraine. Indeed, a Ukrainian Su-25 ground attack plane was shot down earlier today in the area, reportedly from a Russian fighter plane, though the pilot ejected and was picked up by Ukrainian forces. On Monday a Ukrainian military An-26 transport plane in the region was shot down at an altitude of over 6,000 meters. Given that the Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine had only man-portable air defense missile systems (MANPADS) like the 9K38 (SA-18) and more recently some 9K35 STRELA-10 (SA-13) missile systems were brought across the border from Russia, and none of these can hit targets above 3,500 meters, the An-26 was brought down by a longer range system—most likely the BUK (SA-11), with contrail photos and video of that intercept indicating it was fired from across the border in Russia. Now another aircraft is brought down in the area, but this time a Malaysian airliner with 295 people aboard.

Russian pundits of course have chimed in and said either the Ukrainians shot it down (since they possess SA-11s) or that more preposterously that the Ukrainians were trying to shoot down Putin’s plane as he was flying back from South America (though he had already been long back in Moscow). Usual disinformation and trollery. Of course, Ukraine would have no need to operate any medium-to-high altitude air defense missile systems there, given that there was no air threat from in eastern Ukraine from Russia, much less a high altitude one (plenty of other threats obviously, but not air ones).

What is known so far:

There are numerous videos and photos of the missile contrails that appear to match those of the BUK (SA-11).

Earlier today in the town of Snizhne (15 km SE of the crash site), an SA-11 transporter-erector-launcher-radar (TELAR) was photographed and videoed going through town. Already in June the Russian forces in eastern Ukraine boasted they had taken some BUKs from a Ukrainian unit, though thee was no hard evidence. The problem is, one does not simply steal a BUK system and just put some local guys in it, even some with military experience, and be able to use it—much less successfully. It is a very complex piece of military kit. The system or systems seen in Snizhne could have been confiscated ones or new arrivals from Russia (as Russians have brought in scores of T-64B tanks, BMP-2s, BM-21s, towed artillery, and trucks in the past weeks after training crews on them in Rostov. SA-13 air defense systems as well. However, as noted, the SA-13 can only shoot up to 3,500 meters, whereas the Malaysian plane was flying at 10,000 meters altitude. This is well within the range of the SA-11 BUK. In any case, the BUK requires a well trained crew to operate at all—much less efficiently.

SA-11 BUK in Snizhne today

SA-11 BUK in Snizhne today

More evidence has appeared that the Russians shot it down. The Donetsk military forces commander, Spetsnaz Colonel Girkin (Strelkov), who loves his VKontakte account and posts things there all the time, boasted late this afternoon about shooting down another AN-26 cargo plane, which will “teach them about flying through our sky,” but deleted the post soon thereafter after probably learning that the plane was not a military one, but a civilian airliner.

Colonel Girkin (Strelok) boasting VK post of shooting down what he initially thought was an An-26

Colonel Girkin (Strelok) boasting VK post of shooting down what he initially thought was an An-26

The Ukrainian SBU, which has demonstrated good ability to intercept phones and radio transmissions, released the conversations of some high rollers in eastern Ukraine related to the shootdown. Bes, a Russian who leads some of the “rebels” in the east, was in conversation this afternoon at 1640 with Colonel Geranin of the Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff about the shootdown. At that time he just reported they shot down another plane and sent people to the scene, and had no information about whether the pilots were captured. Just after that, other unidentified fighters, including one major, discussed how the plane turned out to be a civilian one, but was brought down by “Cossacks.” Then Cossack general (though his real rank is disputed) Kozitsyn, talking with an unidentified fighter, was told that TV said it was an An-26, but the wrackage had Malaysian markings, and asked what it was doing over Ukraine (there are actually numerous international aviation tracks over Ukraine). Kozitsyn casually said they must have been bringing spies. Typical Russian solution. A Malaysian plane at 33,000 feet was bringing spies.

Intercept of Russians discussing shootdown

SA-11 BUK

SA-11 BUK

It is unclear whether the SA-11 BUK in question that did this was operating as part of a multi-vehicle set, or alone. Some have written that it must be fired as a set with control vehicles and early warning radars. Yes and no. I have studied this system since the late 80s. Optimally it should be fired as a whole “kompleks” with the associated vehicles, but a single TELAR (whish has the target engagement radar incorporated onto it) is capable of limited autonomous operations. It would have difficulty against a high speed fast maneuvering target, but against an airliner flying a straight line at subsonic speed, it would have no problem. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the case.

Obviously the Kremlin must be in damage control mode tonight. There will certainly be more denials from the Russian senior leadership and attempts to shift blame to Ukraine, the US, the EU, or anyone. Some idiots will even believe them. But this is what happens when Russia moves professional soldiers and its mercenaries into a zone where they have created a war, and start shooting off their high-tech weapons at anything that flies or moves. They murdered hundreds of people flying to a far corner of the planet.

 

Putin–The More Improbable the Lie…

Russia continues to outdo itself with regards to outlandish lies. In addition to the hundreds of pictures posted by Russian minions on the Internet showing alleged victims of Ukrainian military atrocities–pictures that are quickly found out with simple search engines to be rehashed pictures of atrocities from wars around the world, not least from Russian actions in Chechnya–now Kremlin propaganda has outdone itself with the story of a young child (pick a sex or age, since there are many variants of it) being crucified publicly on the main square in Slovyansk when Ukrainian troops retook the city. just over a week ago.

State ORT TV still has up story and video on alleged child crucifixion by Ukrainians in Slovyansk

State ORT TV still has up story and video on alleged child crucifixion by Ukrainians in Slovyansk

Another Internet version was published by a certain Aleksei Smirnov, and the main version was old boy, supposedly the son of a militia fighter, was nailed to a bulletin board in front of his mother and everyone else, cut and tortured for an hour and a half, and then killed before the mother was dragged around the square by a tank and killed. Reportedly, the foreign media outcry against this nonsensical story led ORT’s chief to claim he was away at the time and unaware of the story, though as of this writing, the story and video remains on ORT’s website.

State ORT TV fabrication on Ukrainians crucifying toddler

Dugin’s version, which he used as a rallying cry once again for people to go out and kill Ukrainians, has it that some woman told that a man had been dragged behind a tank, and then that a six-year-old child was nailed to an advert board on the square in front of everyone and when his father (a militiaman) came running out they shot him. Dugin said his Slovyansk sources also say the Ukrainians are going into all homes and summarily executing all men up to 35 years old, with no trial or law. In actuality, it is the Russian “separatists” who were holding Slovyansk, Luhansk, and various other towns who have been documented by groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as having held not only Ukrainian and foreign journalists in cellars of SBU and other official buildings, but a lot of locals accused of supporting Ukraine (the country they belong to) who were mistreated, beaten, put on rapid trials, and sometimes executed, as usual in accordance with the archaic 22 June 1941 Soviet military law Spetsnaz Colonel Girkin (Strelkov), who passes himself off as the defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic. As usual, Russian propaganda turns things on their head and accuses Ukraine of doing the types of things they themselves are doing. (For what it’s worth, Girkin posted his own version of the story.)

Ultranationalist ideologist Dugin's version of the crucifixion in Slovyansk

Ultranationalist ideologist Dugin’s version of the crucifixion in Slovyansk

Amnesty Int’l on kidnappings and atrocities in eastern Ukraine

Yet another Girkin execution order based on an old law from a country that no longer exists

Yet another Girkin execution order based on an old law from a country that no longer exists

With regards to the various accounts of the child crucifixions (which many say mirror those from the fourth season of Game of Thrones), the accounts are so varying and there is zero evidence for it, and it is so preposterous, that it obviously is just another Russian propaganda invention to vilify the Ukrainians. Given that Slovyansk allegedly (according to Russian propaganda anyhow) is so pro-Russian, and a large group of mainly women was supposedly herded into the square to watch this spectacle for at least an hour and a half, one would thins that at least one person would have taken a picture or a video, given the fact the virtually everyone in that part of the world carries a smartphone. But nothing whatsoever. Not even a bogus recycled picture from Syria or Chechnya.

Interpretermag analysis of bogus crucifixion stories

This is fully in line with what Russia has used in its typical special propaganda methodology with regards to Ukraine—ascribing to the other side precisely the things that it is doing itself. This would include saying that Maidan leaders shot their own people in February 2014 to put the blame on the poor innocent Berkut and other special services, while there is ample evidence that Russian forces in eastern Ukraine in many cases fired artillery or small arms at neighborhoods in Slovyansk and other occupied cities and then publicly put the blame on Ukrainian forces, which were not even located in the areas from which the shots could have originated.

Putin meeting with foreign rabbis and telling of how clever Goebbels was

Putin meeting with foreign rabbis and telling of how clever Goebbels was

In an enlightening encounter, on 9 July, according to the Russian presidential website, Putin met with a number of foreign rabbis in the Kremlin, and in an interesting response to some unspecified questions from them (which the website uncharacteristically left off of the transcript—probably because they were unfriendly questions about Russia’s actions in Ukraine), Putin quoted Nazi Propaganda Minister Goebbels (always a favorite to quote with a group of rabbis), saying “You said that one must be stupid to deny what happened. You know, I think that one must not just be stupid, but also shameless, to deny what occurred. But unfortunately, just like 70 years ago, this shamelessness often achieves its purposes. After all, Goebbels had said, ‘The more improbable the lie, the faster people believe it.’ And it worked out; he was a talented man.” It seems the rabbis had been pointing out that Russia is obviously actively involved in Ukraine but is denying the fact, bringing on Putin’s response. Yet in doing so he pointed to what Russia is actually doing—lying and denying. Noting to the rabbis that Goebbels was a talented man probably did not win him many points, one can assume.

Putin meeting with rabbis from Kremlin website

But the main thing with the ridiculous propaganda put out by Moscow is that firstly, a great many Russians (even those with Internet who can find alternative sources of information if they choose) will believe it, and secondly, many foreigners will as well. Despite quiet retractions even by the Russians themselves and lack of supporting evidence for this kind of Goebbelsesque garbage, or overwhelming evidence to the contrary, what will stick in many people’s minds is the soundbite or the quick report they saw or read about Ukrainians torturing toddlers. The KGB chief in the Kremlin knows all too well about the power of the preposterous lie.

 

More Anonymous Combat Vehicles Enter Ukraine as Russia Prepares to be “Peacekeeper”

 

Russian T-64s in Luhansk this morning

Russian T-64s in Luhansk this morning

To those Western media analysts who have been saying that Putin is looking for a way out of the Ukrainian mess and is cutting his losses—the evidence once again indicates you “benefit of the doubt” types have, as usual, no grasp of Putin or the Great Russian ultranationalistic character. As expected, Russia moved more of its old depot stocks of heavy weapons into eastern Ukraine last night. Actually more than ever it would seem from the videos.

Russian T-64 in Luhansk today

Russian T-64s and BM-21 in Luhansk today

Some, in parts of Luhansk, show several T-64s flying Russian flags, and with DNR (Donetsk People’s Republic) markings was well as one with the words “For Donbass” on the side.

Russian vehicles in Luhansk this morning

 

Russian BM-21 GRAD MRL passes Toyota dealer in Luhansk this morning

Russian BM-21 GRAD MRL passes Toyota dealer in Luhansk this morning

An apparently different column in other videos shows at least five T-64s, four BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, three MTLBs pulling what appear to be MT-12 antitank guns, a BM-21 GRAD multiple rocket launcher, and a couple of towed and truck-mounted ZU-23 guns. Naturally none of the vehicles has any kind of bort number.

Russian T-64s, BMP-2s, BM-21s, and MT-12s/MTLBs in Luhansk

Luhansk today--MTLBs pulling apparent MT-12 AT guns

Luhansk today–MTLBs pulling apparent MT-12 AT guns

They are now doing this quite openly. Ultranationalist sometime Moscow State University professor and Kremlin ideologist Aleksandr Dugin even joined in on Facebook with one of the videos saying that this is “our humanitarian vehicles in Lugansk.” Thanks for the confirmation.

 

Kremlin ideologist Dugin this morning on Facebook noting "our humanitarian vehicles in Lugansk"

Kremlin ideologist Dugin this morning on Facebook noting “our humanitarian vehicles in Lugansk”

Moscow clearly sees that the military tide has been turning in favor of the forces of Ukraine (the country where this is happening, as some Kremlin apologists always seem to forget). By sending in more T-64s and other heavy weapons (which are in the hands of professionals—not just some local wackos—once again based on the complexity of some of the systems and the excellent roadmarch discipline in urban areas), they probably hope to give the Russian and mercenary forces in Donetsk and Luhansk some more time.

Russian BTR-80 in column with peacekeeper markings near Razumnoe, outside Belgorod, just north of Ukraine

Russian BTR-80 in column with peacekeeper markings near Razumnoe, outside Belgorod, just north of Ukraine

Meanwhile, Russia looks set to send in some regular military forces quite openly if it deems that move necessary. Battalions remain arrayed within a few kilometers of the Ukrainian border (much closer than the ones that were previously there which Putin ceremoniously pulled out last month to the applause (once again) of the Westerners who do not understand Russia or disinformation and confuse it with good intentions. A new video shows a column of BTR-80 APCs roadmarching near Razumnoe (just outside Belgorod, north of the Ukrainian border), as clearly visible on street signs, and some of the vehicles (which appear to lack bort numbers), bear the blue rondel on the back with the Russian letters MS (the abbreviation in Russian for “peacekeeping forces”).

Russian PKF marked BTR-80s near Belgorod north of Ukrainian border

 

BTR-80 in column near Razumnoe (Belgorod), north of Ukrainian border, with blue Russian peacekeeper rondel

BTR-80 in column near Razumnoe (Belgorod), north of Ukrainian border, with blue Russian peacekeeper rondel

This suggests that there are preparations to send in some troops under the guise of peacekeepers. Naturally, as in Abkhazia and Transnistria, without any kind of mandate from the UN or any other international organization. Surely they will also paint their helmets blue to complete the charade. Amazing, but totally Russian style—go to a place you want to control, create a problem where there was none, and then move in as the concerned party in a peacekeeping role.

 

Veteran Anti-Putin Campaigner Novodvorskaya Dies

On Saturday, long-time Soviet dissident and anti-Putin campaigner Valeriya Novodvorskaya died in Moscow from reported toxic shock. She was a hated critic of Putin, so it still remains to be seen how natural her death was. Her last blog post on 4 July is below, with translation by The Interpreter.

Novodvorskaya with sign "Putin Gang Off to Nurnberg"

Novodvorskaya with sign “Putin Gang Off to Nurnberg”

“Why are the Russian people silent?

This is not the Russian people.

This is a crowd with the world view of maniacally-depressive slaves. Where have you seen the Russian people in any large numbers?

I saw them on 15 March, 50,000 people who came to defend Ukraine, which Soviet TV continues to remember with hatred ever since. This was the Russian people

The rest are the Soviet people.

For Soviet people, the selection was normal: rising from their knees, “we’ll show them,” poverty, destruction, the beloved leadership giving the boot — they have the right to crush everyone, and not let anyone go anywhere. We don’t need anything, what we need, we’ll grab ourselves if it isn’t tied down.

Normal Soviet psychology.

Why were they silent when people were driven to Magadan, when they were dekulalified?

They had grown accustomed to being silent.

And those who didn’t want to be silent were destroyed in 70 years of Soviet government.

Now there are only separate individuals, freaks, Boris Nemtsov, Kontantin Borovoy, who aren’t affected by the patriotic radiation of Ostaninko’s TV towers.

But the Black Hundreds — that’s not the Russian people, but its shame.

The Russian people still need to be invented somewhere.”

Alla Pugacheva tweet on Novodvorskaya funeral and Putin

Alla Pugacheva tweet on Novodvorskaya funeral and Putin

And newfound respect for veteran Russian singer Alla Pugacheva, who has firmly joined the anti-Putin ranks with numerous tweets supportive of Ukraine, slamming Russian interference in its internal affairs, and this one where she says “If a million people come out at Novodvorskaya’s funeral and don’t go home, Putin is screwed. Come on Russians!”

 

Russia’s Cheap Shot to Kill Independent Media

Russia continues to put new laws into effect that seriously curtail pluralism in the country. Latest is that Putin signed in record time a new just-passed law that will ban advertising on private cable and satellite channels in Russia, effective 1 January 2015. Given that these are private channels, this will likely put just about all of them out of business. This is significant because they are the ones that to various degrees take independent stances, even though most have less viewership than the state channels where most Russians willingly soak up the government’s party line. Notably exempt from the advertising ban are the state channels. The OSCE’s media freedom representative, Dunja Mijatovic, voiced alarm over this law’s passage. Another slide down the slippery slope into Fascism, where only the government’s voice is allowed. Russian Government Law to Kill Independent Media

Russia’s Ludicrous Unacceptable Behavior in the Savchenko Case

Maidan 12 July save our girl

As previously reported here, the Russian “separatists” near Luhansk captured and interrogated Ukrainian female helicopter navigator-gunner Nadezhda Savchenko on 17 June, when she was with a group of Ukrainian private battalion soldiers in two BTRs that were ambushed. Now she is suddenly being held in Voronezh, Russia, and is charged by the Russian Investigative Committee (a Stalinist-type apparatus Putin uses that is meant to get convictions in nearly all instances, regardless of existence of any real evidence), with killing Russian Rossiya state TV journalists Igor Kornelyuk and his soundman Anton Voloshin—also on 17 June.

Sr Lt Savchenko prior to 23 June in Rusisan "separatist" detention near Luhansk Ukraine, during interrogation by Komsomolskaya Pravda "journalist"

Sr Lt Savchenko prior to 23 June in Russian “separatist” detention near Luhansk Ukraine, during interrogation by Komsomolskaya Pravda “journalist”

However, as usual, Russian propaganda is inconsistent, though those behind it do not ever seem to care about consistency, since they realize most Russians will eat up the BS, and far too many foreigners will also believe without taking a few minutes to do their own basic research. Russia’s ORT state TV aired a piece on the Vremya news program on 10 July about her and linking the death by mortar fire of the Russian reporters at a Russian separatist roadblock on 17 June, by alleged Ukrainian mortar fire. (The only thing evident in the footage, shot from a safe distance by his cameraman, is that there was a significant solitary explosion.) Other Russian official media such as Pravda note that she had worked as an artillery forward observer to aid in successfully targeting the Russian journalists. This is nonsense of course, since Savchenko, when captured, was working in the capacity of a regular infantry soldier and apparently medic as well, as she was captured while trying to recover some wounded fellow soldiers. She is a trained helicopter gunner and navigator, but artillery forward observers are specially trained artillerymen with a specialty that takes considerable training.

So how can it be that she is somehow believed to have been responsible for killing the Russian journalists (which she is being charged with), when she was captured some distance away from where this happened? Are we to believe that Russian information is so good that it can see who is firing a mortar (that they apparently did not know was even going to fire) from a kilometer or more away from the explosion, or who is the forward observer hundreds of meters away? Also, there was one explosion only, which would not have required a forward observer to correct. If it was deliberate targeting, it was a very skillful first round indeed. Inconsistency by Russia as usual. Otherwise known as blatant lies.

Maidan 12 July savchenko shturman-operator mi24

Then there is the fact that she was captured, according to Russia’s own reporting, near Luhansk Ukraine, and was held there and interrogated by Russian “separatists” and also interviewed/interrogated at the same time by Russian Komsomolskaya Pravda journalist Nikolai Varsegov who seemed to be openly working with the “separatists,” asking her repeatedly about her capture, military activities, and personal history, as he threw the usual Russian government party line at here about how a “junta” had illegally seized power from the legitimate president in Kyiv. He also asked her why she came to eastern Ukraine (this land), to which she defiantly replied “it is our land.”

Komsomolskaya Pravda interrogation of Savchenko before 23 June in Ukraine

But this is par for the course for Russian “journalism,” since Russian LifeNews journalists were also caught carrying a 9K38 (SA-18) man-portable air defense system, which is not typical journalistic equipment in most places. In any case, she is now in Voronezh Russia, held awaiting trial for the journalists’ murders.

Russian ORT state TV item on Savchenko detention in Voronezh Russia

The Russian inconsistency continues with the assertion that she was captured in Russia on 2 July during a routine passport check (the old “your papers please”), after having crossed into Russia disguised as a refugee. This is purely ridiculous. Are we to believe that a Ukrainian soldier who was captured on 17 June, interrogated by “separatists” and a Russian reporter in eastern Ukraine, and then somehow inexplicably was released or escaped or whatever, then decided to cross into the land of the same enemy disguised as a refugee (some say to visit her mother, though her mother and family live in Ukraine, so enough of that lie), only to show up in a Russian prison and then is shown on Russian state TV in their footage handcuffed to a rail in her Ukrainian uniform (which apparently all refugees wear these days), in the same footage shot by the “separatists and Komsomolskaya Pravda reporter in June? Russian propaganda regarding this new breach of international law (just add it to the various international treaties Russia has blatantly violated in recent months) is ridiculous, and would be a bad comedy if it were not for that fact that they are toying with a person’s life—a person they kidnapped from another country that is not Russia who was protecting her country.

In the sick category, Russian Investigative Committee Spokesman Markin (the same idiot who was equally obnoxious during the detention of the Greenpeace ship crew some months ago, said on 11 July that Savchenko will be released—when Poroshenko becomes President of the United States.

Fantasy Pravda article on Savchenko Arrest and Detention

Russia continues to separate itself from the rest of the world, but must certainly feel itself at home with its friends like Venezuela, North Korea, and Zimbabwe.

 

Enjoying Success–Ukrainian Military Retakes a Lot of the East

2nd Bn of NG raises Ukrainian flag on City Admin in Slovyansk, 5 July

2nd Bn of NG raises Ukrainian flag on City Admin in Slovyansk, 5 July

The Ukrainian military and security forces in eastern Ukraine, fighting as part of the renewed Anti-Terror Operation, are enjoying significant success. The naysayers who contended they were rag-tag and no match for the well-armed Russian forces, seem to have been proven wrong. They seem to be extremely dedicated and proving more and more capable.

The 2nd Battalion of the National Guard raised the Ukrainian flag over the City Council building in Slovyansk today, gaining full control of the city, which some locals note suffered relatively little damage in most of the districts. Shortly thereafter, the military took control of the center of neighboring Kramatorsk. Ukraine is definitely making headway in taking back the Russian strongholds in the east of the country from the Russian military, Russian government mercenary forces, and local separatists (very small minority).

Ukrainian T-64 today fires on a Russian blockpost in Kramatorsk

Ukrainian T-64 today fires on a Russian blockpost in Kramatorsk

Nobody is really sure where the “defense minister,” Spetsnaz Colonel Girkin (Strelok) is now. He was downbeat several days ago, telling in an interview that “we’re screwed.” Seems to be the case. Some reports claim he has moved to Donetsk and was able to escape with some of his fighters to that city. This may well be the case, and as of late today Ukrainian forces are moving into the million city of Donetsk. If so, and if Girkin is there, this should be his last stand. Hopefully any civilian casualties will be kept to a minimum, though the penchant for the Russian fighters to use civilians as shields and take up positions in apartment buildings makes this a tough situation. But this is precisely in line with what Putin said in March, when he announced that his troops would be behind women and children–not in front of them. Cowards and war criminals.

More of the RPOs and RPGs left by Russian forces in SLovyansk

More of the RPOs and RPGs left by Russian forces in SLovyansk

Some of the weapons and ammo left by Russians in Slovyansk administration building

Some of the weapons and ammo left by Russians in Slovyansk administration building

Weapons and ammo left by departing Russian forces in Slovyansk administration

What is clear is that the Russian forces left a lot of their arsenal in Slovyansk. As the administration building was being cleared out, journalists saw crates and crates of ammunition being brought out, including also at least ten man-portable air defense missiles (MANPADS–PZRK in Russian), and probably over 20 assorted single-shot RPGs (mainly 26s it seemed) and some RPO-A SHMEL thermobaric rocket launchers. Again, these are not the weapons just anyone can get possession of. A large number of Russian military field rations were also recovered.

Girkin--"We're screwed"

Girkin–”We’re screwed”

The question now is what Putin will do. He has been strangely quiet in the past week or so as his surrogate forces lose ground. He may try sending in more T-64 tanks, BM-21 MRLs, and BTRs or BMPs from the Rostov area (operated clearly by professionals, judging by the ones already sent into Ukraine). He would well do this in order to try to relieve the Donetsk Russian garrison. He could also use some of the Russian airborne forces battalions staged only a few kilometers from the Ukrainian border to go in as a self-anointed “peacekeeping force”–probably complete with blue helmets as Russia has done over the past couple of decades in places like Abkhazia. No validity and no UN sanction, but he has trampled on virtually every international treaty in existence except maybe the Treaty of Westphalia, so why not.

The next few days should be interesting and fraught with danger.