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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”).
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.
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.
“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.”
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 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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
A number of new laws took effect today, as well as a Putin ordered authorizing call-up of reservists.
First. Putin signed a law that was published on 30 June which allows potentially far-reaching control over Internet content and use of it by those who oppose the government’s policies. It allows for not only criminal sanctions against those who publish anything considered “extremist” in nature–which could be just about anything they subjectively deem to be so–and also in order to keep such ideas from spreading, the same actions can apply against those on social media sites who “Like” or repost such articles. The sentence can be up to five years imprisonment. The changes to existing laws that he signed were also rather well hidden, as part of a roughly 100-page document of changes to various laws, making it hard for anyone to find or know about them. Welcome to Putin’s increasingly fascist world.
Second. Yet another new law signed and published by the government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta on 30 June gives notice of potential call-up of soldiers released into the reserves after doing their military time. The article publicizing it was quick to point out, of course, that this has absolutely nothing to do with the situation in Ukraine. Right…
Lastly and most interestingly. From today, 1 July, a new law is in effect that it is no longer legal to produce or sell synthetic or lace panties and lingerie in Russia. Ostensibly out of health reasons. And Russian media is always criticizing the EU for its level of control of everyday life!
During the one-sided and extended ceasefire that ended last night, Russian fighters kept up attacks on Ukrainian units, which in many cases responded for self-protection. The battles led to at least one case where the Ukrainians were able to capture or destroy some heavy combat vehicles the Russian government has been providing to the battle in eastern Ukraine (I refuse to say “provided to the separatists” since it is clear these vehicles are being provided complete with competent crews, whether active Russian military or recently discharged “contractors”).
One unmarked T-64BV tank was captured, and one 2S9 NONA 120mm self-propelled airborne combination gun was destroyed and another captured. These of course were unmarked, except for the inscription “To Kiev, To Lvov” written on them. Interestingly the tank is a “B” model, with the radiofrequency guidance box on the turret that goes along with the 9M112 KOBRA (AT-8) antitank guided missile that is fired through the guntube. This makes the T-64B much more capable than the standard “A” model, and makes it a much more complicated vehicle to gun, indicating once again the presence of professional crews. Some other captured weapons include the MPO, which is a newer version of the RPO-A SHMEL thermobaric rocket launcher–an extremely effective weapon for knocking down structures especially due to the tremendous overpressure it produces. The markings on the MPO (a weapon never in the Ukrainian military inventory) indicate it was produced in 2008.
Meanwhile, social media uploads and Twitter reporting from people on the roads in western Russia near the Ukrainian border showed continued movement of convoys of heavy equipment transporters carrying unmarked vehicles, including BTR-80 APCs, heading toward Ukraine. All were accompanied as usual by vehicles from the Russian Military Automotive Inspectorats (VAI). More combat power to bolster the Russians in Ukraine. They are not even making any efforts to hide this, even knowing that nowadays just about everyone has a smartphone in their pocket allowing them to shoot photos or video and upload it quickly.
Since Russia supplied a small number of T-64 tanks to fighters in eastern Ukraine on 12 June, there have been many naysayers commenting in media sources and social media who contend that these were either tanks the separatists confiscated from Ukrainian units or the whole affair was a fabrication. Lots of these are either from stories planted as Active Measures, or from Moscow’s troll-brigade, in order to shape foreign public opinion. Even after NATO released satellite photos showing ten tanks arriving at a deployment and training site near Rostov several days earlier, and the presence of three of them on HETs (Heavy Equipment Transporters) on the 11th—not long before the first three appeared in eastern Ukraine—they still insisted this was not the case.
It should be reiterated that the Russians decided to use T-64s because these tanks have been out of service with the Russian army for many years, though a couple thousand remain in depots, but the Ukrainian military is almost totally equipped with T-64s. Smart move, since the appearance of some of these with the “separatists” in eastern Ukraine gives Russia a certain amount of plausible deniability. It should also be pointed out that the tanks in question are most certainly not being crewed by some local eastern Ukrainian fighters, but by real tank crews who know what they are doing. Russian tanks are relatively easy to operate, at least when compared with Western counterpart vehicles, but are still not something anyone can just jump into and drive or gun. They require a fair amount of training. Also, the many videos of T-64s and other vehicles moving in big columns through eastern Ukraine on 20 June show the operators of all of them were very professional, as they displayed very good roadmarch discipline. Again, not some local bumpkins.
Now finally the first photos of the “second batch” moving on HETs on 19 June have become available from Russian sources (since after all, things are rather hard to keep secret for long these days when everyone has a smartphone in their pocket). The result, as analyzed by Pericles Chronicle, is beyond question (though the Kremlin and its minions will certainly continue to do so).
They show, when matched up with photos of unmarked T-64s in eastern Ukraine on 20 June, that the tanks on the HETs on a Russian highway being escorted by Russian Military Automotive Inspectorate (VAI) cars are the same ones that appeared the next day in Ukraine. The main identifying feature, in addition to the fact that the vehicles bear no bort numbers or other markings, is the placement of Explosive Reactive Armor bricks on the sideskirts. ERA are bricks of thin metal with a couple of plates of plastic explosives in them which, when struck by a shaped charge such as from an RPG or antitank guided missile, explode in such a way as to disrupt the shaped charge’s molten jet so that it cannot penetrate the main armor of the vehicle. On a tank equipped with reactive armor (dynamic protection in Russian parlance), the bricks on the front glacis and turret are mounted on pins welded to the vehicle, in a generally standard pattern. However, on the heavy rubber sideskirt of the tank, there is often none, or randomly attached boxes if the crew or unit maintenance has any available. The T-64s on the HETs in Russia have several very distinct ERA sideskirt patterns as seen on their left sides which were visible to passing traffic.
One had just three crooked bricks in a one-two pattern, another had a straight nine and four with a little gap, and the third had a complete line of 30, but with an extra two bricks laid horizontally above the left sideskirt. Two of those same tanks were photographed from the same side in Horlivka, Donetsk Region, on 20 June and the third in Torez, Donetsk Region, on the 21st. The matches are perfect and irrefutable.
The T-64s are from Russia, with Russian crews, and had been training in Rostov before being moved to the Ukrainian border by HETs escorted by Russian military VAI police. Yet another smoking gun of Russian government active involvement in the fighting in Ukraine, which it totally precipitated. Definitive. End of story.
The signing ceremony was held on 27 June for the EU Association Agreements with Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. Finally! Not an easy road ahead as some or all of them make their way slowly to possible EU membership, but the intent is clear. They want to be more European. Somebody in the Kremlin, of course, who sees everything as a zero-sum game, has been using every possible tool, including war in 2008 and today, and a massive disinformation campaign, to prevent this.
Initial reaction from Russia was, of course, ridiculous. Russian presidential aide responsible for his Eurasian Customs Union, Sergei Glazyev, said just before the signing in a BBC interview that Ukrainian President Poroshenko is a Nazi–naturally with nothing of substance to back up the accusation. (Maybe Hitler also liked chocolate–there must be some commonality in the sick Russian worldview!) He said that the Europeans “…organized military coup in Ukraine, they helped Nazis to come to power. This Nazi government is bombing the largest region in Ukraine.” When asked if he believed Poroshenko was a Nazi he replied: “Of course.” He later went on to call the EU a “Nazi Frankenstein.” He seems to have only one word in his vocabulary, like many in the Russian government (well two maybe, with “fascist” being the other).
Nothing says “independence” better than having a large foreign military contingent with heavy equipment marching in your independence parade. This is that is happening yet again this year in Belarus when it has its parade in Minsk on 3 July. Previously, since 2011 at least, contingents of the Russian 76th Airborne Division from Pskov have participated in the parade–sometimes with some of their BMD armored vehicles. The reasoning given in the past was that the 76th had participated (along with a host of other Soviet units from Russia) in pushing out Nazi forces in WW-II. This year though, Russia will be participating with a column of its new TIGR up-armored jeeps, S-400 TRIUMF air defense missile systems, and the SS-26 ISKANDER theater ballistic missile system. None of these units, it would seem, participated in the events of 1944. Seems a bit odd that a country would be celebrating its independence with a heavily armed contingent of troops from another country–especially one that aims at curbing the independence of neighbors it still deems to be part of it–but after all, this is the Lukashevian vassal state of Belarus.