Ukraine: Daily Briefing – May 4, 2017, 5 PM Kyiv time

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Ukraine: Daily Briefing
May 4, 2017, 5 PM Kyiv time
 
Ukrainian Army Tactical Training. Photo – Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense
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 nine Ukrainian soldiers were wounded in action. In the last 24 hours, Russian-terrorist forces opened fired on Ukrainian positions 52 times in total, including at least 25 times with heavy weapons. Towards Donetsk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions near Avdiivka with mortars and tanks. Russian-terrorist forces fired on Ukrainian positions near the Donetsk airport, Svitlodarsk, Zaytseve and Verkhnotroitske. Towards Mariupol, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions at Vodyane with artillery. At Krasnorivka, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions with mortars. Towards Luhansk, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrianian positions near Popasne and Krymske with mortars. At Troitske and Novooleksandrivka, Russian-terrorist forces shelled Ukrainian positions with grenade launchers and mortars.
2. Trial in absentia for treason of ex-President Yanukovych begins
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported, “Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is being tried in absentia on high treason charges in Kyiv. The trial began on May 4 at the Obolon District Court in the capital, with two lawyers representing Yanukovych. Yanukovych abandoned office in late February 2014 and fled to Russia in the face of massive protests triggered by his decision to scrap plans for a landmark deal with the European Union and improve trade ties with Moscow. Dozens of people were killed in attempts to clamp down on the protests. Yanukovych, who remains in Russia, is accused of treason, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and abetting Russian aggression. […] After a debate between the state prosecutor and defense lawyers at the court session on May 4, Judge Vladyslav Devyatko ruled that Yanukovych should be given the opportunity to take part in the trial by video-link. The judge then adjourned the proceedings until May 18. […] Yanukovych could be sentenced to 15 years in prison if convicted, but he is protected by Russia and would be unlikely to travel to Ukraine and serve the time. At least seven other probes have been launched by Ukrainian authorities against Yanukovych […] The charges against him range from corruption to involvement in the mass shooting of unarmed protesters in Kyiv in February 2014 as the standoff between his government and the Euromaidan demonstrators came to a head.”
3. US Mission to OSCE: We do not and will not accept Russia’s efforts to change the borders of Ukraine
Speaking at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, US charge d’affaires Kate Byrnes stated, “Abuses perpetrated by Russia against those opposed to its purported annexation of Crimea continue. We call on Russia to drop charges against independent journalist Mykola Semena. Mr. Semena’s sham trial resumed on May 3 – World Press Freedom Day – after a five-week hiatus. Neither independent observers nor media have been allowed to observe the trial. Mr. Semena faces up to five years in prison if convicted on spurious charges of “undermining Russian territorial integrity via mass media” – in other words, for exercising his right to freedom of expression by criticizing Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea.Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has shaken the very foundations of security and stability in Europe, and is antithetical to a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. The United States affirms its staunch support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders. We do not, and will not, accept Russia’s efforts to change the borders of Ukraine. We join our European partners in affirming that our sanctions on Russia will remain until it fully implements the Minsk agreements, and Crimea-related sanctions will remain until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”
FBI Director Comey testifies at Senate Committee_ May 3. 
Photo – Reuters
4. FBI Director: Russia is greatest threat on earth to US democracy
James Comey, Director of the FBI, testified at the US Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3. The following is an exchange published verbatim in the Washington Post, between Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Director Comey:
“GRAHAM: Is it fair to say that the Russian government still involved in American politics?
COMEY: Yes.
GRAHAM: Is it fair to say we need to stop them from doing this?
COMEY: Yes, fair to say.
GRAHAM: Do you agree with me the only way they’re going to stop this for them to pay a price for interfering in our political process?
COMEY: I think that’s a fair statement.
GRAHAM: Yes, OK. So what we’re doing today that is not working. They’re still doing it. They’re doing it all the world, aren’t they?
COMEY: Yes.
GRAHAM: So what kind of threat do you believe Russia presents to our Democratic process, given what you know about Russia’s behavior of late?
COMEY: Well, certainly in my view, the greatest threat of any nation on earth, given their intention and their capability.”

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