Ukraine: Daily Briefing – April 17, 2017, 6 PM Kyiv time

Ukraine: Daily Briefing
April 17, 2017, 6 PM Kyiv time
CAF combat engineer instructs Ukrainian soldiers on identifying Improvised Explosive Devices  #OpUNIFIER, Photo – CF Operations

1. Russian Invasion of Ukraine
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported at 12:30 PM Kyiv time that in the last 24 hours, no Ukrainian soldiers were killed and two Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action. Towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions at Zaytseve, Avdiivka and Luhanske village. Towards Mariupol, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Pavlopil, Hnutove and Vodyane with mortars. Towards Luhansk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions near Katerynivka with mortars.
2. NATO HQ hosts meeting of NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform
The annual meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform took place in Brussels on April 13. Ukraine’s Mission to NATO reported, “Ukraine’s progress in reforming of the defense and security sector, and the state of implementation of a Comprehensive Assistance Package for our country were discussed during the meeting. Attention was paid to the improvement of the Ukrainian legislation, in particular to the drafting of the Law ‘On National Security’, reforming of the Interior Ministry of Ukraine, and gender issues. NATO’s representatives positively assessed the progress of Ukraine in reforming of the security and defense sector. Allies emphasized that they will continue to provide Ukraine political support and practical help during her fight with Russian aggression.”
3. Ukraine’s National Bank cuts key policy rate to 13%
On April 13, the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) stated, “The Board of the National Bank of Ukraine has decided to cut the key policy rate to 13%, effective 14 April 2017. The resumed cycle of the monetary policy easing is in accord with the pursuit of inflation targets set for 2017-2019 and will help propel the economic growth in Ukraine. In March 2017, headline inflation was recorded at 15.1% yoy. Price growth has accelerated primarily due to base effects and higher production costs. […] The fundamental factors that determine inflation have remained under control. Prudent fiscal and monetary policies against a backdrop of improved inflation expectations restrained acceleration of core inflation (in March 2017, 6.3% in annual terms). Demand-pull pressure on prices has remained moderate, as evidenced by the anemic growth in retail goods turnover in the first months of the year. The revival of economic activity and the improvement in business outlook of enterprises contributed favorably to the recovery of labor demand. However, unemployment remains at a high level due to labor market mismatches. The situation in the FX market has helped weaken pressure on prices. The external price environment for Ukrainian exporters has become more favorable since early 2017 due to recovery in prices for steel, iron ore, and grains, with an export potential being further bolstered by record high grain and oil crop yields. Appreciation of the hryvnia since mid-January was underpinned by solid export revenues.”
4. Brookings Institution – why the US should be interested in Ukraine
Steven Pifer, former US Ambassador to Ukraine (1998-2000), and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote, “There are reports that, at the G-7 foreign minsters’ meeting in Italy on April 11, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson startled his counterparts by asking: ‘Why should U.S. taxpayers be interested in Ukraine?’ His spokesperson later dismissed the question as a ‘rhetorical device.’ Rhetorical or not, it is a bit surprising that Secretary Tillerson would pose the question. It is, however, a question that many American taxpayers, less versed in foreign affairs, might understandably ask. After all, Washington’s foreign policy agenda is full, and Ukraine is 5,000 miles away. Here’s the answer. Since Ukraine regained its independence in 1991, it has been a good partner for the United States on issues that mattered critically for U.S. foreign and security policy. For example, in the early 1990s, Ukraine gave up the nuclear arsenal that it inherited following the collapse of the Soviet Union. […] In the late 1990s, Kyiv agreed to align its non-proliferation policy with Washington’s. One immediate result: The Ukrainian government terminated a contract that the Ukrainian company Turboatom had to supply the turbine generator for the nuclear power plant that the Russians were building at Bushehr, Iran. […] In 1994, as part of the arrangement under which Ukraine gave up the strategic nuclear weapons on its territory, the presidents of the United States, Russia, and Ukraine, along with the prime minister of Britain, concluded the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances for Ukraine. In that document, the United States, Russia, and Britain committed to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity as well as not to use force, or threaten to use force, against Ukraine. […] Russia has blatantly violated those commitments with its illegal seizure and annexation of Crimea in 2014 and subsequent support for the conflict in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Fighting between Russian/separatist forces and the Ukrainian military in the Donbas has claimed some 10,000 lives, and a settlement is nowhere in sight. The Budapest Memorandum was a key piece of the deal that got rid of 1,900 strategic nuclear warheads that could target America. That mattered a lot to Washington in 1994, and U.S. officials told their Ukrainian counterparts when negotiating the document that the United States would take a strong interest in what happened in Ukraine.A bove and beyond Ukraine, Russia’s aggression constitutes a fundamental challenge to the post-Cold War European security order and raises questions about what the Kremlin might try next. That is of interest to the United States, given that the trans-Atlantic relationship links us to our longest and closest friends and partners, and we are committed to their defense in NATO. Support for Ukraine, along with political and economic sanctions, are ways in which the West can make clear to Moscow that there will be consequences for its egregious misbehavior. The risk otherwise is that the Kremlin might undertake other actions that would further threaten European security and stability. Would Moscow use military force against the Baltic states, which are members of NATO? Most likely not. But five years ago, the answer would have been a resounding ‘no.’ Supporting Ukraine and imposing costs on Russia for its aggression help ensure that Moscow does not miscalculate in a way that would lead to deeper crisis.”

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